Food Most Widely Marketed Product to Kids
Food is the most widely advertised product to children and adolescents, according to a study released on Wednesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Washington Post reports.
Researchers from Indiana University examined more than 1,600 hours of television programming broadcast from late May to mid-July 2005, with additional sampling in September 2005. They analyzed ads during both children's programming and programming that has younger viewers, according to ratings (Squires, Washington Post, 3/29). Researchers recorded more than 40,000 ads during that time period, close to 9,000 of which were for food and beverages (USA Today graphic, 3/29).
Half of the ads shown during children's programming were for food. Major findings of the study include the following:
- Children ages eight to 12 years old saw the most food commercials, with an average of 21 per day, or 7,600 ads totaling 51 hours per year.
- Adolescents ages 13 to 17 years old saw 17 food ads a day, or more than 6,000 ads totaling 40 hours per year.
- Children ages two to seven saw 12 food ads per day, or 4,400 totaling nearly 30 hours per year (Washington Post, 3/29).
- Food was the top advertised product for children, making up 32% of all commercials aimed at two- to seven-year-olds; 25% of ads for eight- to 12-year-olds; and 22% of ads for teens (USA Today graphic, 3/29).
- Of all food ads in the study, 34% were for candy and snacks; 28% were for cereals; 10% were for fast foods; 4% were for dairy products; and none were for fruits and vegetables (Washington Post, 3/29).
- Children saw one public service announcement about nutrition or fitness every two or three days, while teens saw one per week.
Of the major networks, ABC ran more ads targeted at children than CBS, NBC or Fox (Menn/Schreck, Los Angeles Times, 3/29).
Study co-author Vicky Rideout, a Kaiser Family Foundation vice president and director of the foundation's Program for the Study of Entertainment Media and Health, said, "Childhood obesity isn't just the latest hot topic. It's a very serious problem that's having a devastating effect on the lives of millions of children and families in this country, and that could impact our country's health care system for many years to come" (Los Angeles Times, 3/29).
Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest said, "If any parent tried to talk to their kids 10 or 20 times a day about healthy eating, they'd be considered the biggest nag ever, and yet that's how many bad food messages kids are seeing on TV every day" (Hellmich, USA Today, 3/29).
C. Lee Peeler, CEO of the National Advertising Review Council, said that "a lot has changed" since 2005. In November 2006, his group launched the Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, a voluntary self-regulation effort that includes 11 of the largest food and beverage companies. The program asks companies to pledge that 50% of ads aimed at children younger than age 12 feature healthier products or healthier lifestyle messaging, Peeler said (Washington Post, 3/29).
Dan Jaffe, lobbyist for the Association of National Advertisers, said, "The total advertising community, the total food community, is tremendously committed to taking major steps -- unprecedented steps -- to respond to the obesity problem" (Los Angeles Times, 3/29). Jaffe noted that several studies have shown that advertising of food to children has dropped since the late 1970s, even as childhood obesity is "jumping dramatically," so "placing the primary blame on advertising is overly simplistic," he said (USA Today, 3/29).
The study is available online. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the study.
CBS' "Evening News" on Wednesday reported on the study. The segment includes comments from Rideout and Susan Linn, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School and co-founder of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (Whitaker, "Evening News," CBS, 3/28). Video of the segment is available online.
NPR's "Morning Edition" on Thursday also reported on the study (Inskeep, "Morning Edition," NPR, 3/29). Audio of the segment is available online.