________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 31. . . .April 13, 2018


Eat This! How Fast-Food Marketing Gets You to Buy Junk (And How to Fight Back).

Andrea Curtis. Illustrated by Peggy Collins.
Markham, ON: Red Deer Press, 2018.
36 pp., paperback, $16.95.
ISBN 978-0-88995-532-5.

Subject Headings:
Junk food-Marketing.
Food industry and trade.

Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.

Review by Gail Hamilton.

***½ /4



There was a time when “going viral” meant you'd come down with a nasty flu virus. Now every marketer who posts something online or on social media hopes to spread the word about their brand like a fast-moving flu bug. “Going viral” is when something—a video, an app, a song, photograph, quote—gets seen and shared by many people in a short amount of time.

Fast-food and beverage companies create ads they hope will get people talking about their products- and, of course, buying them! If the ad is funny or clever or touching enough, people will forward it to their friends. This is sometimes called friendvertising because it relies on you to share with people you know to spread the word. You probably don't think of it this way, but when you send the link, you're giving the company free publicity.

Lately, fast-food restaurants have been creating more and more outrageous products- things like pizza cake, waffle tacos, deep-fried mac'n'cheese bites with a crunchy chip crust, burger burritos- because the wackier the food, the more likely it is that young people will want to share on social media.


Researchers are examining the link between the recent rise in childhood obesity and diseases such as diabetes and cancer and the consumption of junk food. This timely book provides kids with the tools they need to question marketing techniques and to make healthier food choices. At first glance, the cover, with its bright, enticing and colourful photos of junk food, might seem somewhat misleading for the title, Eat This! would appear to encourage kids to eat the types of food depicted, but, upon closer inspection, the subtitle reveals that this is a book about fast-food marketing and what to do about it. Even the band of yellow, on which the title is printed, is the colour of caution.

      Junk food takes its toll, not only on people's health, but also on the environment, from plastic and paper packaging of processed foods to the garbage generated, and the fuel required to grow and process the food. Because avoiding junk food can be difficult, this book helps readers navigate through the advertising hype by explaining what marketing is and by providing plenty of examples pertaining to snack foods. Marketers use several strategies and powers of persuasion in order to get people to buy their products, and they match the strategy to the target age group of the consumer.

      Repetition, appealing to the emotions, product placement in TV shows and movies, ads at sporting events (e.g. on the boards of a hockey rink), and the use of “spokescharacters”, mascots and celebrities to boost sales are just a few of the strategies discussed. Some forms of marketing, such as product placement in video games, are a little more subtle. Even schools are not immune to the subtleties of advertising. Fundraisers or reading rewards sponsored by a particular company are a form of advertising, the goal of which is to create brand loyalty at an early age. Likewise, a counting book featuring Oreo cookies, while teaching youngsters how to count to 10, is really an ad for the popular cookies. “Advergames”, free interactive online games which are more ads than entertainment, also promote sugary snacks and beverages. Readers are also shown how food photography enhances the appearance of food to make it look more appealing.

      Other topics in this title include the environmental cost of producing processed foods, the importance of becoming media literate, and the dangers of providing personal information when entering a contest or signing up for prizes online. There is also information about what different countries are doing to reduce obesity among children and to combat junk food in schools, approaches ranging from disallowing companies to advertise to children to banning toys and other prizes in kids' restaurant meals. Junk Free Checkouts (no gum, candy, chocolate bars or chips by the checkout to avoid impulse buys) are appearing in some supermarkets. As well, there are several stories featuring young people who are challenging large corporations, such as McDonald's and Gatorade, and ideas for advocacy. Readers will learn terms such as “bliss point” (referring to the point at which the brain receives the message that a particular food tastes just right), “kidvertising” (advertising targeted specifically at children), “consumer culture”, and “pester power” (the power of kids' nagging their parents until they get what they want). And if anyone should doubt the power of viral videos, they need only to read about the KFC restaurant chain that launched a YouTube video about a boy who arrives at his date's home to pick her up for the prom. Instead of a corsage, he presents her with a chicken leg to wear around her wrist and during their last dance, as she leans towards him, seemingly for a kiss, she takes a bite out of her own corsage. This ad garnered 650,000 hits in its first week alone.

      With its casual, conversational writing style and plenty of relatable examples, fun facts, anecdotes and statistics, Eat This! will connect easily with readers. There is a special note to students, parents and teachers as well as an interview with the author and some ideas for challenging fast food culture and marketing strategies. Bright, colourful photographs and amusing cartoons enhance the text. A table of contents, a glossary and a list of websites to support further research are also provided.

Highly Recommended.

Gail Hamilton is a former teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.

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