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Food Marketing to Children and Youth: Threat or Opportunity?
advertising in children’s programming (Broadcasting and Cable, 2004), and enforcement actions against other channels for excessive advertising time have occurred in the past.
Marketing of food products has been a common practice on children’s programming since the early days of television. In a study examining 24 children’s programs from the 1950s, 45 percent of all commercials observed were for sweetened breakfast cereals, confectionery, or snacks (Alexander et al., 1998). Starting in the 1970s, content analysis researchers began to produce a relatively clear picture of the overall profile of products typically presented in children’s television advertising. Patterns in the distribution of product types promoted in commercials during children’s shows demonstrate strong stability since regular measurement began approximately 30 years ago (Kunkel and McIlrath, 2003). In general, about half of all commercials during children’s television programming have consisted of food and beverage products, primarily comprised of RTE sweetened breakfast cereals, candy, CSDs and sweetened drinks, and QSRs (Gamble and Cotugna, 1999). This pattern can be seen in Table 4-14, which compares findings from three of the largest studies of children’s advertising, one each conducted in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.
Although there has been a decline in the percentage of commercials for the food product categories from the 1970s to the 1990s (Ippolito, 2005), food product commercials predominate in the advertising directed to children. From a chronological perspective, Cotugna (1988) reports that 71 percent of all such commercials are food advertisements; Kotz and Story (1994) report 56.5 percent; Taras and Gage (1995) report 48 percent; Gamble and Cotugna (1999) report 63 percent; and Byrd-Bredbenner (2002) reports 78 percent. The samples for these smaller studies are typically in the range
TABLE 4-14 Common Types of Food Advertising as a Proportion of All Commercials in Children’s Television Programming
aPercentages were derived by combining data reported for advertising sampled in 1983, 1985, and 1987.
bKunkel and Gantz (1992) report data for broadcast networks that yielded a total of 72 percent for these three categories, but their overall totals included advertising on independent broadcast and cable channels, which were not surveyed by the previous studies.