Study looks at TV food ads for children
“The vast majority of the foods that kids see advertised on television today are for products that nutritionists would tell us they need to be eating less of, not more of, if we’re going to get
a handle on childhood obesity,” said Vicki Rideout of the Kaiser Family Foundation, which conducts health research.
Overall, the foundation’s researchers monitored 13 television networks. The viewing took place primarily between late May and early September 2005. They saw 2,613 ads featuring food and drinks
that targeted children and teens.
Policymakers in Congress, the Federal Trade Commission and agencies such as the Institute of Medicine have called for changes in the advertising landscape, and U.S. food and media industries
are developing their own voluntary initiatives related to advertising food to children. To help inform this debate, the Kaiser Family Foundation released the largest study ever conducted of TV
food advertising to children.
The study, Food for Thought: Television Food Advertising to Children in the United States, combines content analysis of TV ads with detailed data about children’s viewing habits to
provide an estimate of the number and type of TV ads seen by children.
As the fight against childhood obesity escalates, the issue of food advertising to children has come under increasing scrutiny. Policymakers in Congress, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC),
and agencies such as the Institute of Medicine (IOM) have called for changes in the advertising landscape, and U.S. food and media industries are developing their own voluntary initiatives
related to advertising food to children. To help inform this debate, the Kaiser Family Foundation today released the largest study ever conducted of TV food advertising to children.
Types of Food Advertised. Of all food ads in the study that target children or teens, 34% are for candy and snacks, 28% are for cereal, and 10% are for fast foods. Four percent are for
dairy products and 1% for fruit juices. Of the 8,854 ads reviewed in the study, there were none for fruits or vegetables targeting children or teens.
Appeals Employed to Advertise Food. One in five (20%) food ads targeting children or teens include a push to a website, and a similar proportion (19%) include the offer of a premium,
such as a game or toy. About one in ten (11%) have a tie-in to a children’s TV or movie character.
Physical Activity Portrayed. Fifteen percent of all food ads targeting children or teens include depictions of a physically active lifestyle, such as showing children skateboarding,
snowboarding, or playing basketball.
Public Service Advertising. The study also measured children’s exposure to public service messages on fitness or nutrition (whether donated or paid). Children 2-7 and 8-12 see an
average of one such message every 2-3 days (164 a year for 2-7 year-olds and 158 a year for 8-12 year-olds). Teens 13-17 see just one such message per week, for an average of 47 per year.