Unhealthy food marketing called out

8th December 2020 | Eativity editors

Winners (or should that be losers?) in the 16th annual Parent’s Voice Fame & Shame Awards have been announced, with this year’s event showing that a global pandemic is no barrier to unhealthy food marketing that deliberately targets children.

The awards highlight the worst of unhealthy food marketing, but also celebrate those promoting a healthier lifestyle to kids. In a clear example of the increasing amount of unhealthy food marketing targeting children, this year’s awards feature a new shame category: Ad-demic. The Ad-demic award is given to a campaign that parents believe has shamelessly utilised the COVID pandemic to sell their products to Australian children.

Parent’s Voice Fame & Shame Awards  for unhealthy food marketing


While Victoria celebrates double zero “doughnut days”, parents have called out this year’s Ad-demic winner – doughnut heavyweight Krispy Krem e- for using social media ads that encourage kids to “multitask” by staying home, eating doughnuts and playing video games.

After a year spent largely at home, there’s been an increase in children using digital technology. There’s also been a rise in the amount of unhealthy food marketing targeted towards children on digital platforms. Not only has the amount of marketing to kids increased, it’s become more nuanced, with the introduction of “kid-friendly” platforms such as Twitch and TikTok; while promotions by influencers also make it hard for both children and adults to identify unhealthy food marketing in disguise.

Parent’s Voice Fame & Shame Awards  for unhealthy food marketing

Digital Ninja

The Digital Ninja shame category highlights the most insidious examples of these kinds of innovative marketing techniques, with Coca-Cola’s use of Amazon’s Alexa device to order free personalised bottles of Coke being voted the worst of the worst by Australian parents.

For the first time in the awards’ 16-year history, digital marketing examples made it into all categories except for Bother Boards – given to the brand which has used advertising boards in spaces like shopping centres or on public transport to influence kids.

Parent’s Voice Fame & Shame Awards  for unhealthy food marketing

Bother Boards

The Bother Boards category didn’t get off lightly though, with KFC’s bus billboards receiving a shaming for using low prices and catchy slogans to appeal to teens and tweens who see their ads as they take public transport to and from school.

Parent’s Voice Fame & Shame Awards  for unhealthy food marketing

Pester Power

McDonald’s Australia has won the Pester Power shame category in this year’s awards for their television commercial “Denise”, which was deemed by even the Advertising Standards Community Panel to have breached marketing to kids’ codes. McDonald’s Australia also scored the Foul Sport shame award for its integrated AFL sponsorship program.

Parent’s Voice Fame & Shame Awards  for unhealthy food marketing

Smoke and Mirrors

Cereal offender Kellogg’s also received its ninth Smoke and Mirrors shaming for its LCMs ad “Mum and Dad’s Sure-fire Lunchbox Hit”. The ad touts “awesomeness of puffed rice” but unsurprisingly fails to mention LCMs’ dismal Health Star Rating (0.5 to 2), or that some bars contain a whopping 35 percent sugar.

Parent’s Voice Fame & Shame Awards

Parent’s Choice

It wasn’t all bad news, though. Two “fame” awards were given to companies promoting healthy foods and active lifestyles to kids. The Parents’ Choice Physical Activity award was presented to VicHealth for encouraging girls to get active wherever and whenever with its “This Girl Can” campaign, while Perfection Fresh – a runner-up in 2019 – took out this year’s Parents’ Choice Food category with its new Qukes campaign.