Content Analysis of Television Food Advertising to Children

Cocoa KrispiesWhat does the article add to knowledge?

The article shows that marketers rely more on peripheral clues when advertising low-nutrition food to children (and potentially their guardians).

Which concepts are discussed in the article?

The article uses the Elaboration Likelihood Model as a basis to categorise claims made by food advertisers when advertising food of general and low nutritional value to children. Previous research has shown that children are particularly susceptible to peripheral clues in advertising, such as implying approval from adults or peers, mood alteration or suggestion of increase of speed or strength. In addition the researchers also coded for the presence pf special effects, animations etc., as these were found to be particularly persuasive for children in  previous research.

Where is the data from and what methodology is being used?

The data was derived by conducting a content analysis of adverts aired by four major children’s networks in the US, a total of nearly 800 commercials. The content was then coded to use either peripheral or central cues  based on a previous scheme developed by Weber et al (2008) and special effects present in the commercial.

What are the main outcomes?

Generally, the researchers claim that low nutrition food uses more peripheral cues. However, a close examination of the result shows that this is somewhat mixed: For example, low nutrition foods use more “value for money” and “quantity” appeals, linked to central processing. While general nutrition food emphasise more flavour and nutritional content. Similarly, amongst the peripheral clues, magic/fantasy was more used by commercials promoting “general” food, while “premium offers” was more linked to low nutrition food. Thus, the overall claim needs to be moderated somewhat.

Why should you read it?

The debate surrounding advertising of food to children, the link with obesity and the content of advertising is a highly controversial area and a very complex issue. While it is interesting to see that different tactics are used to promote different types of food, it is noteworthy that the tactics are actually surprisingly similar in some ways. Thus, the article could be the basis of an interesting discussion about claims and the link between advertising and childhood obesity (and suggested policy responses).

Full reference: Kim, H., Lee, D., Hong, Y., Ahn, J., & Lee, K. Y. (2015). A Content Analysis of Television Food Advertising to Children: Comparing Low and General‐Nutrition Food. International Journal of Consumer Studies

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