Advertising works even when we know someone is trying to manipulate us into buying commemorative coins, banana slicers, and anything ever sold in an inflight magazine. And it works even better on kids, who may not understand they’re being pitched.
In perhaps the best proof yet that advertising has frightening power over children, researchers have shown that a little marketing can convince kids to eat their vegetables. A new study, out of Cornell, found that 239 percent more students chose salad in a lunchroom when the salad bar was covered with pictures of vegetable cartoon-characters and nearby TVs played videos with those same characters — you know Brian Broccoli, Suzy Sweetpea, and the rest of the Super Sprowtz — extolling the virtues of veggies.
“The results of this study highlight how the persuasiveness of marketing media can be leveraged in a positive way by encouraging children to make more nutritious choices,” said Drew Hanks, the study’s lead author and a professor at Ohio State University, in a statement.
Yes, it’s a bit creepy that advertisements — even good ones — can hack the minds of children, but the sooner we get over the idea that we always act rationally the better. Once we accept that our environments influence our actions we can use that knowledge to encourage the good influences and shut down the bad, like marketing junk food to toddlers.