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Name: Antony Loewenstein
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Monday, May 23, 2005

Putting on the pounds

Morgan Spurlock, agent provocateur of anti-McDonalds documentary, Super Size Me, returns with a book called "Don't Eat This Book", exclusively extracted in yesterday's Independent on Sunday. Adults clearly bear much responsibility for the kind of food their children are consuming, but as Spurlock suggests, "they're going up against billions and billions of dollars spent every year in corporate marketing, all aimed at teaching kids to make exactly the opposite sorts of choices."

"...McDonald's marketing genius M Lawrence Light - the guy who rolled out the 'I'm lovin' it' campaign - wants to surround the youth of the world with McDonald's brand images. 'Light wants to turn everything he can into an ad for McDonald's,' wrote Business Week magazine in July 2004. "He's pushing the Oak Brook chain to open clothing shops so kids will walk around in T-shirts with the Golden Arches logo, just as they already do with Old Navy or Disney. He envisions a deal with the National Basketball Association to play the five-note tagline of the 'I'm lovin' it' ad in the stadium every time a player shoots a three-pointer. He's even toying with making the jingle available over the internet so it could be downloaded as a mobile phone ring tone."

Some may argue that McDonalds has the right to advertise to whomever it chooses. True enough in our economic system, but surely there is a need for debate around the ways in which young children are being sold a message of "consume and be happy".

It'd be a pleasant thought indeed to see companies like McDonalds sued by concerned parents who argue that their children are not happy after consuming a Big Mac. False advertising?


Blogger Polywise said...

I don't know about you, but I've never met a kid who isn't happy after consuming a Big Mac, Cheeseburger, Quarterpounder, McNuggets and so forth.

When brand strategy revolves around McDonalds being a happy experience - from the colours and design of the restaurant, packaging and product (toys included), to the cleanliness of the restaurant, the pleasant service and the freely available napkins and straws – you’d be hard pressed to find someone to sue on the grounds you mention.

I hate the Maccas global monster thing as much as the next socially conscious lefty, and I agree that advertising to children needs to be closely monitored. In Australia, advertisers must comply with the AANA Code for Advertising to Children. The Code covers areas of factual presentation, social value, parental authority, price, qualifying statements, competitions, premiums, alcohol, food and beverages. If you think that an ad contravenes the code, you should make a complaint. I know I have.

Monday, May 23, 2005 6:07:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

The post was slightly tongue in cheek, BUT, I suspect we are moving towards a direction where advertisers can be sued for false advertising, especially in terms of health and safety. Fast food is a likely battleground.
Watch this space....

Monday, May 23, 2005 6:34:00 pm  
Anonymous Poopoo said...

Fast Food as a battleground of truth in advertising?

Haw haw.

Think Drug Companies.
Now there's a serious challenge.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005 12:22:00 am  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

True enough, drug companies should be under the pump, but the long-term effects of fast food is still to be discovered. I'm not suggesting a society a la the US, where people sue at any given opportunity. Merely advocating for more accountability.
Don't get me started on multinational drug companies and DNA mapping and HIV drugs...

Tuesday, May 24, 2005 12:41:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, let's all rely on the state to protect us from big bad companies and keep us from having to make our own decisions...seriously, I don't buy this whole thing about kids being shilled to; it's just good parenting. My kid watches plenty of TV and plenty of ads, and couldn't care less about McDonald's. You know what he considers a treat? Going to Sushi Train. And he considers bananas and apples perfect snacks.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005 7:30:00 pm  
Anonymous michael said...

Yeah, watch all the patent medicines hit the fan after Michael Moore's upcoming doco on Big Pharma hits the screens.

But why not get you started on multinational drug companies, DNA mapping, etc, Antony?

Some of the UK and even US press have started taking a more skeptical line, perhaps in anticipation of the public response to Moore. But Australia's mainstream media remains absolutely supine on the issue, with 'Your ABC' even descending to passing off sex drug spam as news stories.

The drug companies have maybe a 12 month window to use the US FTA to trash Australia's Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme before their public cache takes a hit that could even lose them their sycophantic lap dogs in Australia's parliament. I don't see why anyone who cares about this shouldn't be trying to make them keep their heads down until the chance has passed.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005 7:34:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wait a second...big pharma SAVES LIVES and makes life more tolerable for millions of people. Why again is this bad? Why is it bad that I can take a pill and cure my reflux? Or that Andrew Sullivan can pop two pills a day and keep his HIV under control? Someone explain the evil here...

Tuesday, May 24, 2005 7:55:00 pm  
Anonymous Poopoo said...

Easy enough.
Pop one too many of those reflux pills, and your arse will drop off.
Unless.. you guessed it, you take 'this' patented drug.
Which may of course give you water retention poblems, for which 'this' drug is available, and patented.
And so on.
Hell, you could even take 'this' patented drug that lessens your arthritis caused by metabolic disturbances of the other drugs but it might kill you stone dead when your heart attacks you.

Any glimmer of recognition of a scam or three there yet?

Sorry, I momentarliy forgot this topic was about the updated and sanatised version of the Greasy Spoon Cafe.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005 8:21:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

I will take a look at big pharma soon enough, it's an area, as you say, virtually ignored in Australia.
DNA mapping actually fascinates me more, and disturbs. The thought of our DNA being owned by somebody, anybody, should be rejected vehemently...

Tuesday, May 24, 2005 8:27:00 pm  
Anonymous michael said...

"Wait a second...big pharma SAVES LIVES and makes life more tolerable for millions of people.".

Umm, even though its true that some medications save lives (as opposed to SSRIs, COX-2 inhibitors, etc - which seem to kill more than they save), why do you think that Big Pharma deserves the credit?

Its their predatory patenting practices that make the drugs inaccessible huge numbers of people who need them. And its their trade lobbying practices that destroy public health initiatives like the PBS that help the poor to afford them.

The research & development for new drugs is done overwhelmingly with public funding. Big Pharma spends between three and four times as much on marketing as they do on R&D(plus an unknown additional amount funding 'patient' front groups that exist primarily for Big Pharma's lobbying purposes). And as we have discovered from the Seroxat and Vioxx scandals, Big Pharma R&D that doesn't suit their corporate interests just never sees the light of day (or at least not until a lot of patients have died and a public inquiry has been carried out).

The overwhelming bulk of new product research is done with public funding - with the private biotechs moving in to grab the patents when all the hard, expensive yakka has been done (a typical example being the Myriad patent grab on the BRCA1 & BRCA2 genes after they had already been identified and sequenced by publicly funded academics). A lot of the research that Big Pharma does carry out is funded by us anyway, courtesy of Big Pharma cheerleaders in high places.

It doesn't take Big Pharma to manufacture and distribute pills developed with publicly funded R&D. That could be done easily and effectively by smaller third world drug companies, if the US didn't impose IP law blocks on the factories in India and Brazil or drop bombs on the factories in Africa and the Middle East.

"The thought of our DNA being owned by somebody, anybody, should be rejected vehemently..."

Yeah, I've been whinging about that for a while myself.

But the real campaigners are the folks at Mannvernd. Nothing focuses your outrage like having your government flog the genome of your country's entire population to a biotech cowboy.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005 1:16:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but lots of members of my family are alive today because of Big Pharma -- I don't care if someone's making a buck off it. As for reflux, mate, it was giving me esophageal ulcers that were creating more and more difficulty in swallowing. I'll take my chances.

What's wrong with public funding private profits? I mean, really, how many things have come out of defense or space or whatever research that people then made a buck off of?

If you guys are so scared of money, send yours to me. I won't let it frighten you.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005 11:06:00 am  
Anonymous michael said...

"What's wrong with public funding private profits?"

Take a look at the state of our public hospitals or our water and sewage infrastructure, then have a bit of a think about where those public bucks might be best spent.

But don't get me wrong, I'm not opposed to publicly funded medical research - just so long as the profits go back to the public instead of to bio-pirates who then use the patents to keep the benefits of public research out of the hands of most of the public.

And I'd love to send you some spare cash, Anon. Problem is, it has already gone into double-knit back pockets of Big Pharma executives and their marketing departments, via the tax system and corporate welfare programs.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005 12:18:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michael, look, the states and the federal government are swimming in money -- it's not for lack of funds that hospitals and schools and infrastructure suck in NSW (where I am).

But "bio-pirates"? C'mon...argue facts, not playground insults. How should profits go back to the public? Redistribution? Tax cuts? Perhaps we need a cap on all corporations' profits?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005 12:33:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Standard rubbish reply - OOOOO!! - we don't like the rich, and our objection to being fleeced and sickened deliberately by them is of course pure unadulterated jealosy, because we'd be jsut like them if only we could.

Thanks for for your vigilance and assistance - your cheques in the mail.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005 3:46:00 pm  
Anonymous michael said...

I'm in NSW too, Anon, and have had the unfortunate experience of spending a lot of the past few weeks visiting a friend in one of our public hospitals. And you're right. In spite of the hard work of a lot of underpaid health workers, they suck.

Not sure what you mean by "it's not for lack of funds that hospitals and schools and infrastructure suck in NSW".

Are you suggesting that training and employing sufficient staff and properly paying the ones they have wouldn't make for a better health system? Or that funding enough surgical wards and beds wouldn't reduce waiting lists and allow for better in-patient rehab?

Or are you suggesting that there are enough funds but they're not allocating it to the right areas?

If its the latter - I agree with you. Especially considering the fact that Carr had no trouble finding the money for 1750 more prison slots over the last two years (a 23% increase in capacity that will lead to a minimum 23% increase in recurrent prison expenditure).

But why do you suppose that the Carr government deliberately underfunds public medicine, public transport and public education while overfunding incarceration and roadbuilding? Is there a pattern here?

Prisons increase crime (and fear of crime) and so represent a boon for the security industry. Roads but no trains forces more people to buy cars and petrol. Long waiting lists and iffy standards push more people into private hospitals and health funds. And the exodus from the public to private school system under Carr speaks for itself.

So although 'real wages' increase (at least for those who are employed at above minimum rates) real expenses also increase as more people are forced out of publicly subsidised services into fully private ones. So most workers are going nowhere (or backwards) while corporate profits continue to hit record highs (and CEOs grant themselves record pay increases).

And the underclass of those who cannot afford to sink ever more of their income into private services become ever more disadvantaged and desperate (lucky we built all of those extra prisons, eh?).

And if there's a surplus left at the end of the budget?

Well, if its not being spent on public services its doing nothing for the taxpayers who provided it.

But, on the other hand, it does wonders for the ratings of the state's financial institutions.

So a budget surplus (unless it is eventually spent) is yet more corporate welfare.

But the ironic thing is, that even the relatively well off do not really benefit from the upwards distribution of wealth that policies like those of the Carr government bring.

When there is an epidemic of disease or crime among those who have been excluded, the rich will also get sick or mugged.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005 6:35:00 pm  
Anonymous michael said...

Seems that former BMJ editor, Richard Smith's view of Big Pharma and its relationship to the media is somewhat less sanguine than that expressed by 'Anonymous'.

Friday, May 27, 2005 1:05:00 am  

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