Online Program

Fast-food marketing targeted to children and adolescents: Increasing youth engagement with brands

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 : 12:47 p.m. - 12:59 p.m.

Jennifer L. Harris, PhD, MBA, Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, Yale University, New Haven, CT
Introduction: Despite industry promises to improve food marketing to children, fast food remains the most heavily marketed food category to children and adolescents and one of the few categories that has increased youth-targeted marketing in recent years. Fast-food restaurants have also been early adopters of new marketing techniques, such as social media and mobile marketing, which disproportionately appeal to youth. This presentation updates our 2009 analysis of young people's exposure to a wide range of commonly-used marketing techniques. Methods: We compiled data from syndicated media sources and field research to quantify marketing practices and youth exposure to television advertising and digital, social, and mobile media, including changes from 2009 to 2012. We compared exposure by age group and race/ethnicity when available and evaluated the nutritional quality of products featured. Results: Total media spending by fast-food restaurants reached nearly $4.5 billion in 2012. On average, children and adolescents viewed 1,100 and 1,750 fast-food ads on TV. Ten restaurants were responsible for more than 80% of exposure, and they utilized a wide variety of integrated marketing techniques to maximize the impact and reach of marketing messages to young people. The majority promoted value menu items and other high-calorie nutritionally-poor items. Discussion: Fast food continues to dominate food advertising to children and adolescents on TV, and fast-food companies commonly utilize innovative marketing techniques with high youth appeal. The volume of marketing for poor-quality fast-food products presents a significant barrier to public health efforts to reduce fast-food consumption by young people.

Learning Areas:

Advocacy for health and health education
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Describe techniques used in fast-food marketing targeted to children and adolescents Evaluate changes in youth-targeted fast-food marketing in the past three years.

Keyword(s): Marketing, Children and Adolescents

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have conducted research on food marketing to children and adolescents for nine years and I am the principal investigator on a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to study the topic.
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.