Fast Food Advertising to Youth: 6 Examples & Campaign Results
MAY 26 2023

Fast food advertising to youth is an intricate and controversial topic that has been the subject of much debate since the 2000s. The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) imposes strict guidelines on the collection and use of personal information pertaining to children under 13, making food advertising practices more scrutinized. Despite these regulations, fast food companies continue to engage youth in innovative or sometimes unethical ways to market their products.

In this article, we will explore the significance of developing fast-food advertising campaigns in compliance with COPPA laws, and provide modern fast-food advertising to youth examples of successful campaigns that effectively reach young audiences. We will also discuss the impact of these campaigns on young audiences shopping habits and review some research.

To add to that, we will discuss how our kids and family media buying experts at Driver Studios can help you create custom campaigns and help you propel your business forward.

The Current State of Advertising to Kids

Advertising to kids is a multi-billion-dollar industry. In 2019 alone, fast-food restaurants spent $5 billion on advertising, up nearly $9 billion (9%) from 2012. Amidst the ever-expanding market, advertising's influence on children's conduct and viewpoints cannot be underestimated. Advertising is shown to shape children's food preferences, attitudes toward food, and overall dietary habits. The responsibility of influencing children's actions and attitudes falls on the shoulders of advertisers, and they must act responsibly.

Strategies for Responsible Advertising to Kids

It is estimated that a typical Australian 5 to 8-year-old sees 827 advertisements for junk food on TV every year, but that’s not where the problem is. According to the Obesity Evidence Hub, the problem starts when children aged 10 to 14 buy products from sponsors of their local sports clubs because they think they are cool. 

Marketing to children is a delicate balancing act. On the one hand, advertisers want to promote their products to this valuable demographic, while on the other, they need to be mindful of the ethical considerations and rules associated with targeting minors. Here are some strategies for responsible advertising to kids:

Focus on Education And Entertainment

One of the best ways to connect with children is to make your advertising fun, educative, and interactive. Engage children with fun activities, quizzes, or challenges that teach healthy eating habits or the necessity of exercise. This not only helps to build brand awareness but also promotes positive health and well-being messages for kids.

Use Age-Appropriate Language And Visuals

Be sure to adapt your messaging and visuals to your target audience's age. Colorful cartoon characters and simple language may appeal to young children, while sophisticated humor and visuals may appeal to older kids and teenagers. Be sure to avoid inappropriate language or visuals.

Avoid deceptive or manipulative tactics

Children are especially vulnerable to deceptive or misleading advertising techniques, such as using false statements or emotional appeals. Avoid any advertising practices that could be seen as exploiting children's trust or vulnerability, and always offer clear and accurate information about your products or services.

Use media channels appropriately

While it's tempting to use every media channel available to reach potential customers, it's critical to use them appropriately. For example, while television is still a popular medium for reaching children, it's vital to be mindful of the timing and content of your ads. 

Did you know that 63% of American fast-food restaurants rely on social media for promotional purposes?

Social media platforms may be better suited for communicating with older children and teenagers, but again, it's essential that your messaging and graphics are marketed appropriately and do not mislead.

Examples of Responsible Advertising to Kids

There are numerous fast food advertising to youth examples that are worth analyzing and studying. Children are given the opportunity to make healthier choices through these campaigns, which promote healthier food options. Below are 6 fast-food advertising to youth examples we've gathered and reviewed.

Lego's "Build the Future" Campaign

Lego's "Build the Future" campaign emphasizes the importance of wholesome eating and balanced exercise. The campaign was accompanied by a series of videos and online games that motivated children to build better futures. The campaign's tagline was "Together we can build a healthy future" and was designed to motivate children to eat healthier and exercise more. The campaign was widely successful, and Lego won numerous awards for its efforts.

Disney's "Magic of Healthy Living" Campaign

Disney's "Magic of Healthy Living" campaign was designed to encourage healthy eating habits and active lifestyles. The campaign was launched in 2010 and featured Disney Channel stars promoting healthy living, featuring PSAs and TV commercials encouraging children to make positive choices. The campaign achieved great success, and Disney won numerous awards for its efforts.

McDonald's "Travis Scott Meal" Campaign

80% of children say McDonald's is their favorite place to eat. Surely, they’re doing something right to be gaining so much attention from young audiences, and this example proves that they are.

In 2020, McDonald's launched a campaign featuring a meal endorsed by the rapper Travis Scott. The meal consisted of a Quarter Pounder with cheese, bacon, lettuce, fries, BBQ sauce, and a Sprite. The meal was a massive hit, and McDonald's reported a surge in sales.  However, the campaign came under fire for advocating unhealthy eating habits for kids.

KFC's "Finger-Lickin' Good" Campaign

KFC's "Finger-Lickin' Good" campaign is an iconic fast food advertising to youth example campaign that has been running for decades. The campaign features KFC's fried chicken and encourages customers to "finger-lickin' good." 

Taco Bell's "Cravings Box" Campaign

Taco Bell is a well-known fast food chain, present in more than 30 countries with over 7,600 restaurants and serving over 2 billion people each year. That’s why its name shines among our fast food advertising to youth examples.

In 2020, Taco Bell launched a campaign featuring a $5 Cravings Box. The box consisted of a Crunchwrap Supreme, a Beefy 5-Layer Burrito, Nacho Cheese Doritos Locos Tacos, and a medium fountain drink. The campaign was prosperous, with Taco Bell reporting an increase in sales. However, the campaign received criticism for promoting unhealthy meals to youngsters.

Burger King's "Real Meals" Campaign

Burger King's "Real Meals" campaign aimed to promote mental health awareness. The campaign featured a series of ads that encouraged customers to order a Whopper meal that matched their mood. 

The meals were labeled as "Pissed Meal," "Blue Meal," "Salty Meal," "YAAAS Meal," and "DG Meal," with the message that it's okay to feel your emotions and that Burger King supports mental health awareness. While the campaign was not specifically aimed at children, it did receive praise for its message of supporting mental health awareness among teenagers.

The Impact of Fast Food Advertising on Children

Fast food advertising can have a profound effect on children's nutritional choices and overall health. Studies have shown that exposure to food advertising can make children more likely to opt for unhealthy food options and contribute to childhood obesity.

Obesity Evidence Hub reports that marketing unhealthy foods and drinks to children may contribute to excessive weight gain by influencing their dietary habits and exploiting their vulnerable development.

Research has demonstrated the harmful effects of different types of junk food marketing on children, such as television advertising, online content, sponsorship of sports events, package design, and collectibles.

The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)

The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) is a federal law in the United States that regulates the online collection of personal information from children under the age of 13. The law was passed in 1998 and has since been updated to reflect changes in technology and online behavior.

Under COPPA, companies that collect personal information from children under the age of 13 must obtain parental consent before doing so. This includes information such as the child's name, address, email address, phone number, and other identifiers. 

The law also requires companies to clearly disclose their information collection practices in a privacy policy that is easily accessible to parents.

This means that if a fast food company wants to collect personal information from children, such as through a sweepstakes or contest, they must obtain consent from the child's parent or legal guardian first.

The act also implies that fast food companies must provide parents with clear and easy-to-understand information about how their child's personal information will be collected, used, and shared.

Finally, COPPA also impacts the types of advertising that can be targeted at children under the age of 13. 

The law prohibits companies from using certain types of targeted advertising, such as behavioral advertising, without obtaining parental consent. This means that fast food companies may be limited in the types of advertising they can use to reach young audiences.

Overall, COPPA is an important law that impacts the way fast food companies and other marketers target young audiences online. However, even though the law helps protect children's privacy online, it also presents challenges for marketers who must navigate these regulations while still reaching their target audience.

Why Ad Content Matters

By 2027, the fast food industry is expected to generate 931.7 billion dollars in global revenue. If you wish to leverage the market, you must focus on the very thing that sets successful ads apart from those that fail: content.

The content of your ads is just as crucial as the medium you use to reach your target audience. A well-crafted ad can capture the attention of your target audience, convey your brand's message, and drive engagement and conversions. On the other hand, a poorly designed or ineffective ad can turn potential customers away and adversely affect your brand's reputation.

The Power Of Branded Content

Branded content is a type of marketing that focuses on creating content that is specifically tailored to your brand's message and values. By creating original, high-quality content that is unique to your brand, you can build a stronger connection with your audience and stand out from your competitors. Branded content can take many forms, from blog posts and videos to social media posts and infographics.

Branded content can help you amplify your message and reach a wider audience. By creating original, high-quality content that aligns with your brand's message and values, you can build a stronger connection with your audience and increase engagement and conversions. Branded content can also be shared across multiple channels, including social media, email marketing, and website content, which can help you reach a wider audience and drive more traffic to your website.

The Future of Advertising Fast Food to Kids and Teenagers: Trends and Predictions

The fast food industry is projected to reach $931 billion in 2023, with the Asia-Pacific region leading the growth. As technology continues to evolve, the way fast food companies advertise to young audiences is likely to change in significant ways.

One trend marketers are already leveraging is the growth of mobile advertising. With more and more young people accessing the internet through mobile devices, fast food companies are likely to increasingly shift their advertising dollars to digital channels.

Among the emerging technologies that could impact the future of fast food advertising is augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). These technologies make it possible for companies to design interactive and dynamic advertising experiences tailored to the needs of young people. 

For example, a fast food company could create an AR or VR experience that allows kids to "build their own burger" or explore a virtual dining experience. These types of experiences can be highly engaging and memorable, enhancing brand recognition and loyalty among young consumers and their families.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are also likely to play a role in the future of fast food advertising. These technologies can help companies analyze vast amounts of data to better understand their target audience and tailor their advertising campaigns accordingly. 

For example, a fast food company could use machine learning to analyze data on young consumers' behavior upon interacting with certain ads and use that information to create more effective and targeted ads.

Of course, the future of fast food advertising will also be shaped by the evolution of consumer beliefs regarding health and fitness. As more teenagers become concerned about fast food's health impacts, companies will need to find new ways to market their products in a way that is appealing but also promotes healthy choices. 

This could include emphasizing the use of fresh and natural ingredients in vegan menus, highlighting nutritional information in ads, and offering healthier menu options.

Overall, the future of fast food advertising to kids and teenagers is likely to be shaped by a combination of innovations, shifts in consumer perceptions, and regulation changes. As fast food companies strive to connect with young audiences in an increasingly digital world, they will need to stay ahead of these trends in order to create effective and impactful advertising campaigns.

We Understand Youth

In today's digital age, reaching young audiences has become more complex and challenging than ever before. With the rise of social media, mobile devices, and streaming platforms, it's essential for brands to have a deep understanding of youth culture and a nuanced approach to advertising. That's where Driver Studios comes in.

Driver Studios is a leading advertising agency that specializes in delivering COPPA-compliant messages to kids, teens, and parents across all of their screens. We understand that advertising to youth is a dynamic and ever-changing landscape that calls for a multifaceted strategy. Our team combines our expertise in youth advertising with cutting-edge technology and a comprehensive understanding of youth culture to develop campaigns that resonate with young people.

Whether you're looking to promote an existing product or service, build brand recognition, or create a social impact campaign, we're here to help. Our team of experts will work with you to create a custom campaign that is in line with your vision as a business. We offer a range of services, including digital advertising, influencer marketing, social media management, content creation, and more.

Our COPPA-compliant network will help you reach younger audiences with compelling videos, entertaining kids' content, and COPPA-compliant advertising. Let's talk.


Fast food advertising to youth is a complex issue that requires responsible action from fast food companies. While fast food advertising can increase sales and brand awareness, it can also have a negative impact on children's health and overall well-being. 

Fast food restaurants must act responsibly and create advertising campaigns that highlight healthy food options and encourage children to make more nutritious food selections. The examples of responsible advertising campaigns discussed in this article serve as a reminder that advertising can have a positive impact on children's habits and beliefs, and that fast-food companies can play a role in promoting healthier lifestyles.

With the proliferation of digital devices, it's more important than ever to create campaigns that can reach youth wherever they are. We have the technology and expertise to create campaigns delivered across multiple screens, including mobile, desktop, and connected TV.

If you're looking for a company that can deliver messages to children, teens, and parents on all platforms, look no further than Driver Studios COPPA-compliant advertising services