Mcdonald's and other chains have drawn criticism for far pitching their high fat, salt laden fat to low income inner city residents.
Internal documents from Reynolds and Brown and Williamson Tobacco Corporation have revealed the extent to which these companies target black youth's age 16 to 25, particularly with their menthol brands.
Not all attempts to target children, minorities, or other special segments draw criticisms. Colgate Palmolive's Colgate junior Toothpaste has special features designed to get children to brush longer and more often. Golden Ribbon Playthings has developed a highly acclaimed and very successful black character doll named "Huggy Bean" to connect minority consumers with their African heritage. Other Companies are responding to the special needs of minority segments and children. Thus the issue is not who is targeted but rather for how and what.
Issues over truth and honesty. In the 1940's and 1950's, tobacco used to be advertised as promoting health. Today an advertiser who fails to tell the truth not only offends against morality but also against the law. However the law permits "puffery". The difference between mere puffery and fraud is a slippery slope: "The problem... is the slippery slope by which variations on puffery can descend fairly quickly to lies." The issue is false advertising and this persuades children to buy products with false promises.
Issues with violence, sex and profanity. Sexual innuendo is a mainstay of advertising content, and yet is also regarded as a form of sexual harassment. Violence is an issue especially for children's advertising and advertising likely to be seen by children.
Taste and controversy. The advertising of certain products may strongly offend some people while being in the interests of others. Examples include: feminine hygiene products, hemorrhoid and constipation medication.
Young children, in particular, have difficulty in distinguishing between advertising and reality in ads, and ads can distort their view of the world.
Additionally children are unable to evaluate advertising claims.
Children's cognitive structures are beginning to form and they are most sensitive to external influences. This is especially a problem when advertisements appear on school walls and posters and book covers and gain legitimacy from the supposed endorsement of the school so that children think they must be true.
Children watching athletes in television commercials thought that the athletes paid to be in the advertisements to promote themselves rather than the products. They believed children in advertisements were real rather than paid actors and they often confused advertisements with news items. Generally they did not understand the commercial intent and manipulation behind advertisements.
Older children pay less attention to advertisements and are more able to differentiate between the ads and TV programs but they are also easy prey for advertisers. Around puberty, in their early teens, children are forming their own identities and they are highly vulnerable to pressure to conform to group standards and mores. At this age they feel insecure and want to feel that they belong to their peer group. Advertising manipulates them through their insecurities, seeking to define normality for them;