Fast food giants are using social media clout to influence millions of people, with calls growing for the government to shut down the practice.
AI analytics platform HypeAuditor analysed all Australian influencer Instagram posts that were tagged as fast food advertisements between January and May to uncover the 10 fast food brands that partner with influencers the most.
McDonald’s came far ahead of the pack, with a total of 319 Instagram posts shared by 199 influencers during the first five months of this year.
KFC, Guzman y Gomez, Domino’s and Pizza Hut rounded out the top five.
The 10 fast food brands that partnered most with Instagram influencers generated a total of 981 sponsored social media posts from 653 Australian influencers.
These posts reached almost four million people on Instagram over the five-month period, the analysis shows.
The findings come after a recent federal bill proposed by independent MP Sophie Scamps, which aims to put strict limits on fast food advertising.
If passed, the Healthy Kids Advertising Bill would mean a ban on unhealthy food and drink advertisements on TV, radio and streaming services between 6am and 9.30pm, and a total ban online and on social media.
In a speech to introduce the bill, Dr Scamps said that two-thirds of the adult population and a quarter of children are above the healthy weight range.
“With Australians being bombarded with unhealthy food ads all day, every day, is it any wonder we are facing an epidemic of obesity in this country?” she asked.
“It is time Australia joins the 40 other countries that have already introduced regulations to protect their children from harmful food advertising.”
Based on 2018 data, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimates about 1.2 million children and adolescents, along with about 12.5 million adults, are overweight or obese.
Being overweight is the second-leading risk factor (after tobacco use) contributing to ill health and death in Australia, and is linked to 30 diseases, including 17 types of cancers.
Alex Frolov, CEO and co-founder of HypeAuditor, said the Healthy Kids Advertising Bill could help limit the exposure of young children to junk food on social media, but he cautioned against targeting influencers.
“There should be a general influencer marketing ban on the fast food chains instead of putting too many limitations on content creators,” he said.
“The responsibility should be on the fast food giants to tighten their advertising on social media.”
In response to calls for the proposed bill, the Australian Association of National Advertisers acknowledged community concern about child obesity, but said blanket bans on advertising for some parts of the food and beverage industry are not going to solve the problem.
The New Daily contacted McDonald’s, KFC, Hungry Jack’s, Domino’s and Guzman y Gomez for comment.