Warc Blog

Junk food ads criticised

6 May 2013
PERTH: Adults are no better than children at resisting junk food advertising, with both groups influenced by television and online advertising, a new academic study has found.

Researchers from the University of Western Australia, the University of Adelaide and the Cancer Council surveyed 1,000 parents and 1,000 children aged eight to 14 who viewed advertisements for four commonly advertised energy-dense but nutrient-poor foods.

After watching each ad once, the parents assessed the products more positively and thought they could eat them more frequently.

Professor Simone Pettigrew, who led the study, said the study results were particularly significant in public policy efforts to address childhood obesity and reliance on parents to responsibly evaluate and filter the effects of food advertising.

She noted that, because of their greater cognitive processing abilities, adults had been thought to have more immunity to advertising than children.

One consequence of this was that food advertising regulations focused on limiting children's exposure to advertisements for junk food.

"But these regulations don't take into account the broader influence of the sheer quantity of junk food ads," she said, adding that this volume could potentially normalise consumption of junk foods, at least in in a social sense.

"The results of our study indicate that advertising can lead both parents and children to evaluate these products more favourably and influence how desirable and acceptable they are," Pettigrew concluded.

Regulators in the UK also came under fire recently from campaigners who warned that the internet has become a battleground for children's diets, with evidence suggesting promotional games can subconsciously affect behaviour.

"Food companies continue to exploit loopholes and advertise junk foods to children online, even though stronger broadcasting regulations prevent such advertising on children's television," said Malcolm Clark, of the Children's Food Campaign.

Data sourced from University of Western Australia, The Guardian; additional content by Warc staff

 
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