Children’s exposure to television advertising: implications for childhood obesity Debra M. Desrochers | Debra J. Holt – Consumo e Sociedade – Luiz Valério P. Trindade 21.09.2012
Abbreviations BE Bureau of Economics IOM Institute of Medicine DHHS Department of Health and KFF Kaiser Family Foundation Human Service PSA Public Service Announcement FTC Federal Trade Commission
Broad Scenario According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the increasing prevalence of childhood obesity throughtout the US now ranks as a major health concern, and the possible contributors for that picture are the following: Food marketing (TV advertising); Decreasing relative prices for energy-dense foods; Incresing prevalence of snacks and fast food; Decreasing opportunities for physical activity.
7.2% 11.0% 11.0%1994 2 to 5 6 to 11 12 to 19 13.9% 19.0% 17.0%2004 2 to 5 6 to 11 12 to 19
Study’s Objectives Investigate the impacts of TV advertising directed toward children on increase of obesity;Review previous works related to this subject matter carried out by the Bureau of Economics (BE) and the Federal Trade Commision (FTC).
Evolution in Television and TV Advertising In 1977 three national networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) andtheir affiliated stations dominated television broadcasting,given the fact that they accounted for 93% of all televisionviewing; In 1977 only 14% of households were wired for cable TV,while in 2004 this number had reached over 80% of allhouseholds in the US; Approximately 90% of all cable subscribers received atleast “expanded basic service”, which offers around 60 stationsin the early 2000. In the recent past that number haveincreased to over 140 stations.
Children’s programming have changed considerably from the late 1970’s to the early 2000’s. Total television ad expendituresincreased from approximately US$29 billion in 1990 to US$ 67 billion in 2004.
Recent Research The simultaneous rise in childhood obesity and the mentioned changes in children’s television and advertising prompeted many constituencies to examine the correlation between these shifts; The first one was published in September 2003 in the UK for the Food Standards Agency; In the US, the Institute of Medicine broadened the evidences from the UK study to include industry and marketing sources and performed a review of 155 studies out from 123 articles; The authors concluded that television advertising specifically targeted to children is fundamentally unfair, because of young children’s limited comprehension of the nature and purpose of television advertising, and therefore warrants government action.
Recent Research However, not all studies corroborate the link between television advertising and childhood obesity. Zywicki, Holt, and It appears likely that the main mechanism Ohlhausen argue by which media use that there is a need contributes to for a detailed childhood obesity may well be through empirical the children’s assessment of exposure to billions of children’s exposure dollars’ worth of food to television advertising and cross- promotional advertising over marketing. time.
Method To assess children’s total television exposure, the FTC obtained four weeks of data on all programs aired, the audience composition for each program, and the advertisements embedded in the programs. Consequently, the data for the FTC investigation are more comprehensive than any data set used in recent studies and are not subject to some of the limitations of experimental data. The national data included advertisements embedded in programs distributed by 7 broadcast networks and 50 ad- How to supported cable networks. investigate? The data included nearly 1 million national advertisements (ca. 32,495/day) aired on 37,190 episodes of 9,321 different shows.
Method The article have focused on “children”, defined as viewers between the ages of 2 and 11; The set of programs for which children constitute 50% or more of the audience was considered as of particular interest, and as such they were refered to as “children’s programs” (The 50% Criterion). Children’s average “exposure” to all advertisements, or a subset of advertisements, is determined by the following ratio: Number of children exposed to the ads 365 Number of children in the US population X 28
Method The study specifically examined 41 product categories: 28 food categories; 13 nonfood categories. Although food categories are naturally important to the obesity debate, advertisements for nonfood products are also relevant. For example, advertisements for sporting goods and exercise equipment provide some sense of the extent to which advertisements support the fitness messages that the public health community is disseminating.
Analysis and Results The overal objectives of the analysis are to provide a comprehensive description of children’s exposure to television advertising in 2004 and to highlight any significant changes that have occured since 1977. This analysis is done through the following four parts: 1. A summary of children’s television viewing; 2. Description of children’s total ad exposure across all programs and advertised products; 3. Children’s ad exposure on the subset of programs designated as children’s programs; 4. Comparison of 2004 results with those from the 1977 FTC’s studies.
Children’s television-viewing patterns in 2004
Children’s television-viewing patterns in 2004
Children’s exposure to food advertising Although food advertising has been the primary focus of obesity research, nonfood advertising also has the potential to influence behaviors that affect a child’s weight. In particular, advertising for sedentary pursuits (such as games, toys, and hobbies; screen /audio entertainment, among others).
Discussion and Implications The analysis of the full range of children’s viewing shows that: 1. Children watch about 2h15 min of ad-supported television/day; 2. Children are exposed to aproximately 25,600 advertisements/year being 22% of them (5,500) food ads; 3. Aproximately 1/3 of children total ad exposure and ½ of exposure to food advertising comes from children’s programming; 4. Most of children’s exposure to advertising overall, and food advertising in particular, occurs on cable programming; 5. Large categories of advertising prommote sedentary activities; 6. More than half of children’s ad exposure occurs during the late afternoon through primetime; 7. Most children’s ad exposure is split between children’s programs and programs with audiences that are less than 20% children.
Discussion and ImplicationsThe findings also suggest that food advertising is not the only category of advertising that may be associated with obesity. Heavily advertised nonfood products (e.g., games, toys, and hobbies; screen/audio entertainment; promos and PSAs) represent large portions of children’s ad exposure, especially on children’s programs.
Holt and coleagues argue that exposure to an adis not the same as attention to an ad, and this lastone is a prerequisite to preference formation; The study also focuses exclusively on televisionadvertising and does not address the impact of othermarketing communications that may be used inconjunction with it; The integration of televised food advertisementswith other forms of food marketing has a combinedimpact that exceeds the impact of televisionadvertising in the late 1970’s; Although the study breaks down food advertisinginto various categories, the nutritional content of theindividual food brands was not evaluated.
Some Considerations Calls for restrictions on food advertising to combat obesity arecontroversial because the consequences of such a remedy are not clearenough; If restrictions on food advertising were imposed on children’sprogramming, two key points should also be considered: 1) where wouldthe food advertisements go; 2) what would fill the void left on children’sprograms? Another consideration is that the impact and burden of suchrestrictions would not be evenly distributed across networks.
The world of food marketing to childrenhas changed and will continue to change.Although television advertising is just one component of the entire marketing strategy designed and adopted by foodmanufacturers and restaurant managers, it is used heavily. Consequently, the role of television advertising in the rise in childhood obesity rates requires greater understanding. Conclusion