The tares test of ethical advertising on fast food companies essay sample

The TARES test is useful in evaluating whether the advertisements are part of an ethical way of advertising. While the TARES test will not solve all ethical problems in creating ads, it does give creative people, marketing directors and strategic communication planners a tool.

The -T- stands for truthfulness which evaluates whether an ad is honest or not, and whether it is used to deceive the audience. The -A- stands for Authenticity which states the question “ Does this ad motivate the creator for the same reasons that it was made to motivate the audience? The third part of the test the -R- stands for respect. Do the advertisers respect the audience enough to promote a decent product that will, indeed, hold some truth to its use? The fourth part of the test -E- deals with equity. This has to do with whether or not the advertiser and the consumer are “ on the same level” of understanding the product. Finally, the S in the TARES Test stands for social responsibility. Looking at the TARES test, advertisers and marketers can be responsible for each part when it comes to advertising to children.

The TARES Test on Fast Food Companies Advertising to ChildrenI do not believe that the TARES test is followed in regards to advertisements of fast food products towards children. From the start the first part of the test, is the advertisement truth, does not pass. Fast food companies advertise their products as delicious and tasty but omit the information that continuous consumption of their products can lead to obesity and health risks.

The second portion of the test, authenticity, does not pass as well. The advertisements for fast food products are deceptive in luring children in with tasty treats, toys and play centers here again omitting the serious risks of consuming constant fast foods instead of healthy wholesome meals.

Respect, the third portion of the test is also not followed. Fast food companies are not respecting children or their needs for healthy food. Advertisements directed towards children should encourage them to eat meals that are healthy and substantial to their growth instead of meals that are hazardous to their health, cause obesity and cause children to develop bad eating habits.

The fourth part of the test dealing with equity is far from being abided by. The advertisers of the fast food products and the consumers, the children, are not on the “ same level”. Fast food advertisers know the risks of continuous consumption of their products but choose to sugar coat their advertisements to appeal to children in a positive way. Whereas the consumers, the children, are on a level where they are unaware of the health risks of continuous consumption of fast foods and only view the product as tasty and delicious. If children do not understand everything that is going on, advertisers need to take a few steps down and help them understand better. That falls in line with respecting the children too. Most advertisers have families, just as any other working American has, so they should understand how parents feel about their children’s health being at risk.

They need to take responsibility for their products and respect their audience enough to explain health risks and negative effects of the productsIn regards to the final stage of the test, social responsibility the question of “ Is the ad promoting negative effects?” is asked. It is proven that advertisement of fast foods has helped to accelerate children obesity and health problems. Approximately 16 percent of teenagers 12-19 and 15 percent of children 5-11 are currently obese. There has been a 300 percent increase of obese and overweight children within the past thirty years. Within the next decade, these numbers are predicted to almost double (Jordan, 2007). The advertisement of fast food products have helped to increase the growing number of obese children.

The Special Intended AudienceCommercial breaks during children shows and other television shows expose children to the world of advertising. Roughly a quarter of those ads that air each hour are dedicated to food advertising. A report done by the Institute of Medicine says that food and drink advertising puts kids at risk for health problems and obesity. More low-calorie meals and a healthy way of eating need to be introduced into children’s diets instead of Wendy’s, McDonald’s, or other fast food companies/products (Vondebosch, H., Cleemput, K. V., 2007).

The Needs the Product or Service FulfillsThe job of an advertiser is to make consumers want things that they might have not wanted in the beginning. Eventually, their wants become their desires. Children are the ideal candidates for advertisers to target, because starting young creates brand loyalty. Advertisements for fast food restaurants are targeted at children and send the message that not only is their food delicious and convenient but children are also rewarded by a toy or time at the play center. So, the problem with advertising food to children is that, at a young age, children do not understand what they are watching. They see tasty items and do not consider the health risks associated with them. Long exposure to children surround them with a specific brand or item that they grow up with, and when they begin to have families, they will bring their children up on what they liked as a kid. Parents blame the problem of obesity on advertisers for targeting children, and advertisers blame the problem on parents because they are in control of what their kids eat and do not eat.

Ethical Issues Involved in the AdvertisingThe examples of fast food advertisements revolve around the same ethical question: are there certain types of audiences who deserve special protection from advertising messages? In keeping with thousands of years of ethical thinking, U. S. law has answered this question as most definitely, particularly in the case of children. Thus, there are a number of legal restrictions on advertising targeted at children, in everything from Saturday-morning television programming to the sorts of messages and characters that advertisers may employ. The reason is that children, unlike adults, only have partial understanding of what they see and hear within their first decade of life. They need to be guided until they are capable of understanding on their own. With this being said it does not seem ethically correct for fast food companies to target children as their special intended audience advertising products that are potentially hazardous to their health and establish potential lifelong bad eating habits.

ConclusionIn conclusion, fast food advertisements play a part in the child obesity epidemic sweeping the globe. Banning these fast food advertisements will not work entirely but extra steps could be taken such as abiding by the TARES test to help reduce child obesity and health risks and encourage healthy eating. The responsibility lies upon the government to authenticate the ads, the advertisers and marketers to respect their audience, and for the parents of the children affected by the ads. With advertising conditions staying the way they are now parents have the major responsibility of stepping in and helping their children decipher what is not healthy for their children to eat until children become old enough to understand the difference between a hamburger or a salad and have learned the effects of fast food versus healthy foods.


Christians, C., Rotzoll, K., Fackler, M., McKee, K., Woods, Jr., R. (2005). Media ethics: Cases in moral reasoning (7th ed.). Boston: Pearson. Retrieved from the University of Phoenix September 18, 2009Baker, S., Martinson, D. (2001) The TARES Test: Five Principles for Ethical Persuasion. Journal of Mass Media Ethics 16 (2 & 3): 148-175.

Jordan, Amy B (2007) Heavy Television Viewing and Childhood Obesity. Journal of Children and Media, Vol. 1 Issue 1 p. 45-54Vondebosch, H., Cleemput, K. V. (2007) Television Viewing and Obesity Among Pre-School Children: The Role of Parents. Communications: The European Journal of Communication. Vol. 32 Issue 4 p. 417-446