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J Nutr Educ Behav. 2013 Nov-Dec;45(6):571-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jneb.2013.03.007. Epub 2013 Jul 13.

Healthy characters? An investigation of marketing practices in children's food advertising.

Author information

1
Department of Communication, University of Arizona, AZ. Electronic address: JSC1@email.arizona.edu.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To determine the nutritional quality of foods advertised with familiar children's characters and health-related messages.

DESIGN:

Children's programming aired on the most popular broadcast and cable channels during 2011 was sampled to form a composite weekday and weekend day. All food advertisements (ads) included in this programming were content analyzed.

PARTICIPANTS:

Five hundred seventy-seven food ads.

VARIABLES MEASURED:

Familiar characters promoting products were either trade or licensed characters. A product's nutritional quality was determined using the United States Department of Health and Human Services' categorizations, based on the frequency foods should be consumed. Health cues were present when a food was claimed to be healthy, physical activity was depicted, or the product was associated with fruit.

ANALYSIS:

Frequencies and chi square analyses were conducted; P < .05.

RESULTS:

Nearly three quarters (73%) of food ads targeting children use a familiar character. The majority of these ads (72%) promote foods of low nutritional quality, yet 53% employ a health-related message.

CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS:

Familiar characters proliferate in food advertising to children, yet marketers do not adhere to recommendations that characters promote strictly healthy foods. Future research is needed to investigate effects and inform policy decisions in this realm.

KEYWORDS:

advertising; children; food; marketing; television

PMID:
23860102
DOI:
10.1016/j.jneb.2013.03.007
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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