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Am J Prev Med. 2013 Apr;44(4):358-64. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2012.11.039.

Redefining "child-directed advertising" to reduce unhealthy television food advertising.

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The Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.



Food and beverage companies have pledged to reduce unhealthy marketing to children through the Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI). However, public health experts question the initiative's effectiveness because pledges apply to only some types of marketing. For instance, the CFBAI covers only TV advertising that is "child-directed," defined as advertising during programs for which children make up 35% or more of the viewing audience.


To quantify the proportion of food and beverage TV advertisements (ads) viewed by children that is covered by current CFBAI pledges and examine the potential impact of broader definitions of child-directed advertising.


Nielsen data were used to quantify percentages of children (aged 2-11 years) in the audience (i.e., child-audience share), as well as absolute numbers of child viewers, for all national TV programs in 2009. Nielsen advertising data provided the number of food and beverage ads viewed by preschoolers (aged 2-5 years); older children (aged 6-11 years); and adults (aged 18-49 years) during programs with various child-audience compositions. Data were collected in 2010 and analyzed in 2011.


Just 45%-48% of food ads viewed by children met current CFBAI definitions of child-directed advertising. Expanding this definition to include advertising during programs with a child-audience share of 20% or higher and/or 100,000 or more child viewers would cover 70%-71% of food advertising seen by children but just one third of ads seen by adults.


Children viewed an estimated 35% fewer food ads during TV programs with a high child-audience share (≥50%) in 2009 compared with 2004. However, ensuring that nutrition standards apply to the majority of food ads viewed by children requires broader definitions of child-directed advertising.

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