Majority of TV food ads are unhealthy and target children, study finds
The majority of foods advertised on New Zealand television are unhealthy, and most of those unhealthy food advertisements are specifically targeted at children, new research has found.
The research, published in the international journal Public Health Nutrition, is the largest study of food advertising on television conducted in New Zealand. It covered eight days and three channels and analysed over 10,000 advertisements, about 1800 of which were for food.
Dr Stefanie Vandevijvere from the University of Auckland, who led the study, said “Over two thirds of the food ads contained foods that according to WHO standards should not be marketed to children, yet nearly 90 per cent of them were shown during children’s peak viewing times.” For example, she said that between 6 and 7 pm, which is when more than 120,000 5-13 year-olds are watching TV, over 15 unhealthy food advertisements appeared per hour.
“This creates about 2 million so-called ‘impacts per hour’, which is the number of unhealthy food ads times the number of children watching. This is a very large blast of unhealthy foods to children being marketed to them every night of the week.”
One-third of unhealthy food advertisements included a promotional character and one-third contained a premium offer, like a giveaway, which is very enticing for children. The most common promotional tactic used was the ‘for kids’ strategy with 4 out of 10 ads with promotional characters either featuring children in the advertisement or directly targeting children in the messaging or product packaging. One in five ads with promotional characters used non-sports celebrities and 17 per cent used cartoon characters.