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Review: Ads Feed Steady Diet Of Junk

Shales, T. (1988). Ads Feed Steady Diet of Junk. [Editorial on the book Ads Feed Steady Diet of Junk]. The (Quincy, MA) Patriot Ledger, September 16.


(Download Ads Diet of Junk overview as a PDF)

Tom Shales, a syndicated columnist, writes an enlightening editorial about the influence of advertising on television in terms of how it affects physical health. He writes:

We expect television to poison our minds. It would be nice if it could leave our arteries alone. NBC News aired a documentary, ‘Life in the Fat Lane,’ stating that the ‘average child will watch about 5,000 food commercials a year on television. Seventy percent of those commercials are for foods high in fat, cholesterol, sugar and salt.’ Television excels at prompting viewers to take a break and head to the refrigerator. We are a society taught to eat at any event we attend, while watching television or movies, and even when reading.

The way advertising presents information clearly tricks viewers. In beer commercials, one never sees a drunken bum. In food commercials, an overweight person is never seen indulging in cookies, ice cream or cake. Shales states, “Mainly, though, a viewer watching television could easily get the impression that sweets and snacks give you the figure of an Olympic athlete…It’s torture for overweight people to watch those commercials day in and night out. The commercials not only make fattening foods look irresistibly delicious, they keep telling you to go ahead and eat them and deny yourself nothing. After all, you are you. You deserve a treat, the ad says. You should indulge yourself like royalty. One commercial for designer ice cream takes another route: ‘If you don’t feel guilty, it wasn’t any good.’ “

Shales notes that commercials teach false virtues. They encourage lying to another about who ate the last of a specific product. They teach that the way to show parental love is through candies, cookies, and cakes. Commercials infer that food can be sinful enough to substitute for sex. With new techniques in editing and photography, even bland food comes off looking spectacular and almost ‘too good’ to eat.

Shales closes, “Please, cease teasing. TV airs lots of public service announcements that encourage people to stop using drugs and stop smoking. It’s time for commercials that say stop making a pig of yourself, too.”


  1. Advertising definitely pinpoints gratification opportunities. Who has not made a trip to the refrigerator for ice cream following an advertisement for ice cream?
  2. The United States is an instant satisfaction society and television advertising easily persuades.
  3. It is important to be sympathetic and considerate to those who have weight problems and are trying to change.
  4. One needs to know what one consumes, realizing the quiet damage done in the long term. Commercials at this point do not help the consumer. They only help the manufacturer who is trying to sell his product.

Anne Montague
© 2018 CYS

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