4.2. Discussion points.

Why do political activists and anti-globalization demonstrators always target American fast food restaurants? The answer, according to the critics, is that fast food companies environmental policies are highly suspect. Hamburger chains produce millions of tons of waste from packaging, many allegedly deforest parts of the Amazon in order to rear their cattle there. Whether this is completely true or not can only be speculated. These companies are considered to be exploitative of workers, don’t permit or encourage unions, reputedly force local farmers and restaurateurs out of business, and silence critics with legal intimidation. In other words, glorious Western capitalism at its best. Oh, yeah... and the food is high in fat, sodium and cholesterol, and has been linked to heart disease, cancer and obesity.


Do you think that hamburger restaurants’ advertising is manipulative? Should a company be allowed to use marketing strategies that use and are aimed at children? The final verdict of the famous ‘McLibel’ trial (court case) thought they were manipulative. (The longest running case in British legal history in which McDonald’s took a pair of London hippies to court for giving out leaflets that criticised them.)


Other companies have used controversial advertising campaigns. Which of the following do you think acceptable images for advertising: newly born babies, copulating dogs and horses, nuns kissing priests, AIDs victims and war cemeteries Discuss them as a group. Which are acceptable in your opinion?  Benetton became the most controversial advertiser by using all the above images. Many other companies, seeing the massive publicity generated by such campaigns, have launched similar ones usually involving religious icons, race, sex, guns, children, politics or drugs, just because these are the things that provoke such opposing views. Battle this one out with your classmates.


An NBA basketball player was recently asked by a company if he would use temporary tattoos on his skin with the name of their product. Should this be allowed? At what point does advertising go to far? Many students will argue that advertising should have limits. How long before these people start getting real tattoos? And isn’t it just vulgar and ugly to see someone on television interviewed with a hundred logos in the background, brand names on their hats and jackets and a slogan on their microphone? But then it will be argued that as long as an advertiser is willing to pay, someone else will be ready to advertise. Most youngsters wear clothing which features brand names and icons, so it should perhaps be argued that most people are willing to advertise a company’s brands such as sports shoes, jeans and bags; free. 


Some of the bigger fast food chains have special charities. Is this charity work genuinely philanthropic or is it just cynical propaganda to give the company a good image?  Ironically there was little charity work done by the big corporate companies until pressure groups started making them lose profits. Some say that the amount of work charity work that they do is insignificant. Certainly, in any poor part of town you can see thousands of kids wearing fashionable brands of sports shoes. These companies are taking a lot of money out of the community. How much are they putting back in? How many times do you see community centres or hospitals for the poor with brand name?


Do you think that using images of women to help sell a product is acceptable in modern society? Women in bikinis helped sell cars and many other products in Britain during the 1960s and 1970s until, like Miss World contests, they became considered politically incorrect and insulting to women. In many other countries this attitude is still very much alive. This is a complicated question as a look into any women’s magazine will show that women themselves like to see images of women in adverts. Another recent discovery in marketing and advertising is that women often buy products that have a marketing campaign aimed at men. The Marlboro man, is a good example. Tough, macho cowboys smoking like real men. And who are the biggest consumers of this product: women. As one astute salesman pointed out, ‘the average consumer is no moron; she’s your wife.’


Does the public get what the public wants, or does the public want what the public gets? A good salesman will tell you that he could sell snow to Eskimos; marketing experts will tell you that the public only want what they’ve already got; (its near impossible to launch a new brand on the market.) I say, ‘does consumer choice exist if there are fifteen flavours of Cola but no orange juice in the drinks machine, or ten American movies at the cinema when you prefer European films?’; and you say ‘why don’t you shut up and let’s get on with the next section of the book.