263557 Integrated tactics for marketing food to children: Below the belt and regulation radar

Monday, October 29, 2012 : 2:47 PM - 2:59 PM

Elizabeth Taylor Quilliam, PhD, MBA , Department of Advertising, PR, and Retailing, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Nora J. Rifon, PhD, MA , Department of Advertising, PR, and Retailing, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Lorraine Weatherspoon, PhD, MS , College of Community Nutrition & Dietetics, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Introduction: The food industry's self-regulatory Children's Food and Beverage Initiative has a goal of using “..advertising to help promote healthy dietary choices and healthy lifestyles among American children.” While many advertising and promotion tactics are covered by 17 participating company pledges, some popular tactics are not addressed. We discuss how integrated marketing communication strategies, specifically food packages and online advergames, have the potential to influence children's and parent's food choices. Methods: Two studies were conducted. The first examined marketing characteristics of CFBAI company packages for products approved to promote to children, identified “fun factor” tactics, and evaluated the products based on CSPI nutrition standards. The second tested the effects of online advergames incorporating package images on children's brand preferences and requests. Results: In study 1, 118 food packages were analyzed. All but one included a web site address. More than half (54.2%) used two or more fun factors, and 62% did not meet CSPI standards. In study 2, children 5 – 10 yrs (n=104) were exposed to a food advergame incorporating a cereal package image in a 2 (integrated brand image vs. background ad) X 2(active play vs. passive exposure) experiment. Active game play resulted in greater preference for the stimulus cereal than passive watching, and brands integrated into the game had a significant effect on children's requests for an adult to purchase the cereal. Discussion: Findings highlight the need to expand the self-regulatory initiative. Packages, online activities, and packaging cross-promotions circumvent the restrictions on other child-targeted advertising and promotion.

Learning Areas:
Communication and informatics
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
1. Identify the types and prevalence of marketing tactics targeting children but not covered by food company self-regulation; 2. Compare nutritional quality of foods marketed to children by CFBAI companies to external (CSPI) nutrition standards; and 3. Evaluate the effectiveness of digital marketing, specifically advergames, in influencing children’s brand preferences and requests.

Keywords: Children, Marketing

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I conduct research on food marketing to children, and related industry regulation and public policy issues.
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.