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Vice News sees dubious ‘racial disparities’ in fast-food advertising

A new article from Vice News claims [1] that, according to the headline, “Junk Food Ads Are Still Targeting Kids of Color.” 

The article introduces two college students studying the marketing behind Takis, a popular tortilla chip.

Takis “embodied junk food companies’ problematic marketing strategy: to target Black and brown youth, without communicating any of the well-established health risks,” the article said.

It cites demographic statistics showing Black and brown youth eating Takis. It thus draws a false equivalence between Takis consumption and marketing. The mere fact that certain demographics buy Takis provides no evidence that these demographics are marketed to more heavily than others, let alone “targeted.”

“Black children and teens viewed about 75 percent more fast-food TV ads in 2019 than their white peers, up from 60 percent more in 2012,” the article continues, citing a June report from the University of Connecticut’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. The story neglects to mention that that wasn’t because of some racist conspiracy to weaken Black youth through fast food.

Rather, consider that the very same report suggests that Black children and teens watched 61% and 58% more hours of TV, respectively, than their white peers in 2019. That contributed to their increased ad-watching. And while fast-food companies may choose to advertise on channels that Black audiences watch, why is it bad for free-market advertising to gravitate toward a profitable demographic? Any given demographic – including white men and women – purchases at least some products that aren’t good for them.

Besides, “Black people in general, from a civil rights perspective, have wanted more recognition in the marketplace,” the founding chair of Drexel University’s Council on Black Health says in the story. Black people are getting such recognition, with the article citing a May report that put minority communities’ buying power at $3.9 trillion. 

Much of the article laments what it calls “the absence of government regulations against junk food giants.” It advocates such regulations by appealing to efforts to reduce Big Tech’s monopoly power. Perhaps conservatives could coalesce around reining in Big Tech, as they have in attempts to limit its censorship of conservatives [2] on social media.

Whatever the solution may be, Vice is sending a message to its gigantic, millennial audience which includes more than 10 million Facebook followers. Like many other messages from the Left, this one’s a double standard: Advertising for unhealthy products is bad only when it’s directed toward certain races. Otherwise, it’s morally acceptable.