Kids: “I’m Wuvvin’ It”

I have a new idea for antiobesity PSAs. Instead of generic, “Hey kids, get out and play” messages, perhaps we should be getting kid-friendly pop stars to sing the immortal playground ditty “McDonald’s is your kind of place / They serve dead rattlesnakes / They slap you in the face …”

Maybe that would counteract the effects on preschoolers described in a new study from Stanford University. Researchers found that the 63 kids ages 3 to 5 in the study thought that food presented to them in McDonald’s wrappers tasted better than identical food in unmarked wrappers—even when the foods in question were store-bought milk, juice, or carrots, rather than actual McDonald’s offerings. The study was admittedly small and was limited to just preschool-age, lower-income kids, but the findings have potentially far-reaching implications.

Dr. Susan Linn, the cofounder of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, noted in an interview on NPR’s Here and Now this morning that the study indicates a rather horrifying fact: For kids, “branding trumps actual sensory input.” Marketing to children really does have a profound influence on them, and susceptibility to this marketing apparently kicks in pretty early, she said.

As grim as that seems for the future of our steeped-in-commercial-messages kids, commenter Squirrelbait on the Core 77 Design Blog sees a silver lining: If you’re trying to get your kid to eat more veggies, raid your local McDonald’s for some wrappers, cups, and boxes. Who’s up for some delicious homegrown cucumber salad in a Big Mac box?