Online Program

Evaluating television food advertisements during peak children's viewing times

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 : 10:30 a.m. - 10:50 a.m.

Melissa J. Vilaro, MPH, CPH, Department of Behavioral Science and Community Health, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
Tracey E. Barnett, PhD, Department of Behavioral Science and Community Health, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
Anna Corona, BS, Department of Behavioral Science and Community Health, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
Background: In 2006 food industry self-regulatory efforts aimed to “balance” the mix of food advertisements to ensure that children do not receive excessive exposure to unhealthy food products. A recent update to industry self-regulation aims to eliminate unhealthy food ads during peak child viewing times by December, 2013. The food industry's pledge prompted researchers to evaluate the healthfulness of child-directed food advertisements. Additionally, we evaluate the use of persuasive marketing techniques in these advertisements. Methods: We recorded 32 hours of children's programming in February, 2013. Food advertisements were classified as healthy or unhealthy using the U.K. Nutrition Profiling System. Independent samples t-tests were conducted to determine if unhealthy food ads utilize more persuasive techniques compared to healthy food ads and to determine if food ads targeting children are more persuasive than those targeting adults.

Results: Of all advertisements, 13.5%(N=939) were for food and 43.4% of all food ads represent unhealthy products. The number of persuasive techniques was not significantly different for healthy (M=4.64, SD=1.95) and unhealthy food ads (M=4.37, SD=2.08) however food ads aimed at children use significantly more persuasive techniques (M=5.38, SD=1.5) than those targeting adults (M=1.52, SD=1.54), t(125)=10.701, p< .0001.

Conclusions: We assess the food industry's ability to successfully regulate themselves to limit food advertising exposure that children experience. Almost half of all child-directed food advertisements represent unhealthy foods indicating that self-regulatory efforts may need closer monitoring. Persuasive techniques are more prevalent in food ads aimed at children who have limited cognitive ability to defend against persuasive techniques.

Learning Areas:

Communication and informatics
Public health or related education
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Evaluate child-directed food advertisements in terms of healthfulness and use of persuasive techniques. Discuss if self-regulatory efforts enacted by the food industry can effectively reduce the amount of food ad exposure that children experience with a specific focus on unhealthy food advertising. Evaluate the use of persuasive techniques in food advertisements aired during peak child viewing times.

Keyword(s): Food and Nutrition, Children and Adolescents

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a current PhD student and my scientific interests include measurement and evaluation of food and nutrition environments. My interests also include obesity, and nutrition for vulnerable populations including children, minorities, and rural adults. I am conducting my dissertation research concerning social determinants of diet among rural women.
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.