UPDATE -- I found a link I want to add: Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.
From the American Journal of Public Health we learn that foods that should be in the minority in our diets make up the majority of what is showcased in TV commercials aimed at children.
Convenience/fast foods and sweets comprised 83% of advertised foods. Snacktime eating was depicted more often than breakfast, lunch, and dinner combined.
A 2000-calorie diet of foods in the general-audience advertisements would exceed recommended daily values (RDVs) of total fat, saturated fat, and sodium. A similar diet of foods in the child-audience advertisements would exceed the sodium RDV and provide 171 g (nearly 1 cup) of added sugar.
You know how commercials for children's cereals always include that shot of the bowl of cereal accompanied by a couple pieces of toast, a glass of juice, and a glass of milk, while the cartoon mascot chirps, "Part of this nutritious breakfast!"? Do any of us really feed our kids that breakfast? The whole reason you serve cereal is to save yourself the trouble of preparing a breakfast. If I'm going to make the effort to make toast for everybody, I can give them some fruit along with it and forego the cereal. When they say "part of this nutritious breakfast," you know full well that the cereal isn't the part providing the real nutrition.
If you happen to live in Seattle, however, you may soon see some advertisements for much better food choices:
This week bus riders in the Highline, Tukwila, Burien, and White Center areas will see original works of art by 120 area students that have been created as part of a bus advertising campaign promoting the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.
"We were teaching students what advertisements are and how to pay attention to their methods, and what they are trying to sell them. We start the lesson by teaching children about how flowers use bright colors, scents, and even mock female insects to attract pollinators. The students were asked to create advertisements for fruits and vegetables after the kids reported that they have not seen any ads like this. Proud of their own artistic achievements, some of the students suggested it would be cool if these ads could reach the public in their neighborhoods."
Here's a sample of some of the ads.
This illustrates why the profit motive can be so destructive. Advertising, instead of calling our attention to the things that are best for us, instead wants us to focus on whatever someone can make the most money from. My favorite example is breastfeeding. The big problem with breastfeeding is that nobody makes that much money from it. Some nursing moms buy breast pumps, but those are only a one-time purchase. How can that compare to formula that you have to buy continually for years? That's why ads for bottles and formula vastly outnumber the "public service" ads that encourage us to breastfeed. Our best interests are not the issue.