Age-dependent effects of food advergame brand integration and interactivity

Nora J. Rifon and Elizabeth Taylor Quilliam

Michigan State University

Hye-Jin Paek

Hanyang University

Lorraine J. Weatherspoon, Soo-Kyong Kim and Karen C. Smreker

Michigan State University

Introduction

For decades, food marketing to children has been a concern for parents, policy-makers and the healthcare community. As childhood obesity rates have increased, so has evidence that food marketing is a significant contributor to this trend (Institute of Medicine of the National Academies 2006; Seiders & Petty 2007; Harris et al. 2009). At the same time that traditional food advertising has been criticised, food marketers have increasingly targeted children with digital approaches designed to promote their branded food products. Free online games, known as advergames, integrate food brand identifiers (brand names, pictures of food and its packaging) into the games as key game-play components (Moore & Rideout 2007; Lee et al. 2009). Food advergames most often promote calorie-dense food products with low nutritive value (Lee et al. 2009), and blur the line between advertising and entertainment, challenging the ability of children to notice and resist their persuasive intent (Moore & Rideout 2007). Thus, food advergames are receiving greater attention by researchers, regulators and policy-makers.