Want kids to eat more junk food? There’s an app for that

Photo by RLEVANS (Rob Evans) via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Thanks to this post from Philip Bump at Grist, I discovered Anton Troianovski’s recent article in The Wall Street Journal about the brave new world of food marketing beyond the traditional (and already mind-blowing) avenues of television advertising aimed at kids.

Under the headline “Child’s Play: Food Makers Hook Kids on Mobile Games,” the article looks at the trend of companies building game apps for smartphones and tablets that are—as their makers (at least the honest ones) admit—nothing short of advertising aimed at building brand recognition, preference, and loyalty in kids:

Carol Janet was an early app explorer. She runs an Atlanta licensing agency that helps companies get their brands on everything from toys to T-shirts. Two years ago, she saw her daughter’s 3-year-old niece sitting on her training potty, engrossed in an iPad.

“She was so at ease with it, so familiar,” recalled Ms. Janet. “I just said to myself, ‘Oh, my goodness. I have to be here. I have to take every single one of my clients into this because these young kids are the future consumers for my brands.’ ”

Ms. Janet struck a deal with Anthony Campiti, a videogame developer in Las Vegas, to build the mobile app for the Icee company, one of her clients, and later for SuperPretzel.

Mr. Campiti’s software company, Sunstorm Interactive, has churned out dozens of simple apps in which players assembled sweets and snacks by tapping levers and buttons on the screen. Four of the top 25 free children’s games in the U.S. iPhone App Store on Monday were made by Mr. Campiti’s company.

“Kids are our No. 1 consumer,” said Susan Woods, Icee’s marketing chief. “The fact that they may think about getting an Icee next time they see an Icee machine is a lot more likely if they’ve engaged themselves with something to do with Icee.”

Yikes. Head here for the full story, which really is worth a read, along with related photos, video, and audio.



  1. Little Sis

    Horrifying. Thanks so much for this. I’ve kept my kids away from devices so far, but I don’t want them to be at a disadvantage in our increasingly digital world. Tough terrain for parents who want their kids to eat (and WANT) real food.

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