November 9th, 2015

Parent Aimed TV Ads for Children's Beverages Pour On Sugar Coated Health Messages

American Academy of Pediatrics

Children’s television shows have long been sprinkled with commercials for sugar-laden snacks and drinks, linking these products with fun and adventure. New research shows that ads for kids’ foods and beverages also target parents, but with a different message—one that portrays the products as healthful despite poor nutritional quality.
The study, “Children’s Food and Beverage Promotion on Television to Parents,” looked at commercials for children’s foods and beverages aired on television for a year. The ads for children’s foods and beverages were split into those directed towards children and those directed towards parents depending on ad characteristics and themes. Ads that featured themes of family bonding, for example, were classified as parent-directed.

Confirming many earlier studies, researchers found that the foods and beverages advertised during children’s TV shows were largely for nutritionally questionable products such as sweetened cereals and sugary drinks. More surprising was the considerable portion of commercials for children’s food and beverages aimed at parents, researchers said. For example, 73 percent of the total airtime for children’s sugar-sweetened beverages was dedicated to ads targeting parents, according to the study.

More significantly, the researchers said, all of the parent-directed ads for children’s sugary drinks featured messages emphasizing nutrition or health benefits, despite a link between sugary drink intake and childhood obesity, dental decay and other problems.

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