News

TV junk food marketing targeting children


10 September 2008

Persuasive marketing techniques were mostly used to advertise unhealthy foods, with over three unhealthy food advertisements every hour using premium offers during the most popular programs with children, says Lesley King.
Persuasive marketing techniques were mostly used to advertise unhealthy foods, with over three unhealthy food advertisements every hour using premium offers during the most popular programs with children, says Lesley King.

University of Sydney researchers have found that advertisements for junk food that use competitions and give-aways are 18 times more common during the 20 most popular children's programs compared to popular adult programs.

The study, the first to look at the use of persuasive television food marketing techniques to children in Australia, also found promotional characters such as cartoon characters and celebrities were used twice as often in food advertisements during popular children's programs.

Conducted by University of Sydney researchers at the NSW Centre for Overweight and Obesity, the study has recently been published online in the international journal Health Promotion International.

"Persuasive marketing techniques were mostly used to advertise unhealthy foods, with over three unhealthy food advertisements every hour using premium offers during the most popular programs with children," said Lesley King, one of the researchers.

She said: "Advertisements for chocolate, confectionery, fast food restaurant meals and high sugar/low fibre breakfast cereals contributed to the greatest proportion of all premium offers."

Ms King said that although persuasive marketing techniques are clearly being used to catch children's attention, new draft Children's Television Standards released by the Australian Communications and Media Authority would fail to effectively reduce children's exposure to these marketing tactics.

"The draft standards only restrict the use of cartoon characters and celebrities during C or P classified programs, yet these are not the programs that are watched by the largest numbers of children," she said.

"Regulations to restrict these persuasive marketing techniques must apply at broadcasting periods when children are actually watching television; up until 9 or 10pm. Importantly, most of the programs on commercial channels that are popular with children will not be covered under the draft standards."

About the study

This study examined 20,201 advertisements broadcast on Sydney's three commercial television stations over equivalent one-week periods in 2006 and 2007. It investigated the volume and method of food advertising during the times when high numbers of children are watching television and during children's most popular programs.


Contact: Kath Kenny

Phone: 02 9351 2261 or 0434 606 100