ming networks that exist today. Other networks such as ABC Family, Discovery Kids, Cartoon Network, Fox Kids, and the Disney Channel target this age group by providing children and teens with a variety of programming options. Radio is another medium through which marketers reach to children and youth. Disney has made this medium a viable channel for advertising both to children and parents, who often listen to the radio together in the car. Radio Disney also offers promotions and contests that involve audiences in more active interactions with products advertised (Radio Disney, 2005).
The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) regulation of commercial time through the Children’s Television Act of 1990 limited commercial time on children’s programs to 10.5 minutes per hour on weekends and 12 minutes per hour on weekdays. However, food is the most frequently marketed product in television advertisements during children’s television programming, and accounts for 50 percent of the total advertisements viewed (Coon and Tucker, 2002; Gamble and Cotugna, 1999; Kotz and Story, 1994). Some estimates suggest that children view a food advertisement every 5 minutes of television viewing time (Kotz and Story, 1994).
Estimates of annual exposure to television advertising from nearly three decades ago indicated that an average viewer (child or adult) would be exposed to more than 20,000 television commercials per year (Adler et al., 1977). Subsequent data gathered between 1983 and 1987 indicated that the average child, watching roughly 4 hours of television per day, would see more than 30,000 commercials per year for all products, including food and beverages (Condry et al., 1988). Based on advertising content data gathered in 1990, and extrapolation using children’s viewing patterns, some have estimated that children currently view as many as 40,000 commercials on television and cable per year (Kunkel and Gantz, 1992; Kunkel, 2001). The increasing estimates stem primarily from the growing trend of airing 15-second commercials, rather than longer 30- or 60-second commercials, as was common in the past (TV Bureau of Advertising, 2005). Taras and Gage (1995), for example, observed an increase of 11 percent in the number of commercials aired per hour of children’s programming between 1987 and 1993, despite the fact that the total amount of advertising time remained relatively stable.
Given an apparent, albeit small, drop in children’s time spent watching television in recent years (Zywicki et al., 2004), this estimate merits additional examination. Two preliminary unpublished analyses of primary data have been made public and suggest a possible reversal of the childhood advertising exposure trend. The first analysis is based on 4 weeks of Nielsen Monitor-Plus/Nielsen Media Research data for 1977 and 2004 examining children’s programs and adult prime-time programs, advertisements, and audiences (e.g., children ages 2–11 and 12–17 years) (Ippolito, 2005). The