242506 Sugar-Sweetened Websites: How the Soda Industry Targets Young People Online

Monday, October 31, 2011

Andrew Cheyne, CPhil , Research Team, Berkeley Media Studies Group, Berkeley, CA
Lori Dorfman, DrPH , Berkeley Media Studies Group, Berkeley, CA
Priscilla A. Gonzalez, MPH , Research Team, Berkeley Media Studies Group, Berkeley, CA
Johanna Richardson, MBA , Yale University, Rudd Center for Food Policy Obesity, New Haven, CT
Introduction. Sugar-sweetened beverages [SSBs] are the single largest contributor to the rise in obesity. According to the Federal Trade Commission, soda is the top product marketed to children after fast foods. In 2005, the major soda manufacturers agreed to voluntary efforts to reduce the marketing of SSBs to children, including a ban on promoting full calorie products to children under 12. However, data show that millions of 2-17 year-olds visit soda websites annually.

Methods. We analyzed the content of websites associated with nationally promoted SSBs that are most popular among children and adolescents.

Results. The top 4 SSB manufacturers [Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, The Dr. Pepper/Snapple Group, and Kraft Foods (e.g. Capri Sun)] maintain over 80 websites, including corporate Websites, brand-specific sites, and those targeted to specific audiences, such as Pepsi's cause marketing campaign [refresheverything.com] that has reached millions of youth. SSB websites use a variety of techniques unique to digital media to reach young people, including ubiquitous connectivity, engagement, personalization, the social graph [viral networking], and immersive environments. The most successful sites capture youth's attention, on average, over 5 minutes per visit, and children return to them 2 to 3 times per month.

Discussion. Advocates concerned about SSBs must attend to sophisticated digital marketing campaigns through which children and youth have long-lasting, intensive interactions with soda brands.

Learning Areas:
Communication and informatics
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Describe how sugar-sweetened beverages are marketed to children and adolescents online. Identify the digital marketing techniques SSB manufacturers use to engage young people. Analyze whether current campaigns violate CFBAI-participating companies' pledges restricting marketing to children.

Keywords: Marketing, Obesity

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the project director and a coder on the study.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.