Knowledge for better food systems

Call for a ban on junk food television advertising aimed at children

This systematic review examines the most common persuasive techniques used to promote junk food to children on television. The study shows that the approaches most frequently used are: free toys, gifts, discounts and competitions, promotional characters and celebrities, and appeals to taste and fun to promote junk food to children. These persuasive techniques were found to be used more often when promoting unhealthy food. The study authors argue that a ban on junk food advertising to children under 16 would be an important measure to fight child obesity. NB: the study looks at which persuasive techniques were most commonly used – it doesn’t assess which are the most effective.

This systematic review examines the most common persuasive techniques used to promote junk food to children on television. The study shows that the approaches most frequently used are: free toys, gifts, discounts and competitions, promotional characters and celebrities, and appeals to taste and fun to promote junk food to children. These persuasive techniques were found to be used more often when promoting unhealthy food. The study authors argue that a ban on junk food advertising to children under 16 would be an important measure to fight child obesity. NB: the study looks at which persuasive techniques were most commonly used – it doesn’t assess which are the most effective.

Abstract

The ubiquitous marketing of energy-dense, nutrient-poor food and beverages is a key modifiable influence on childhood dietary patterns and obesity. Much of the research on television food advertising is focused on identifying and quantifying unhealthy food marketing with comparatively few studies examining persuasive marketing techniques to promote unhealthy food to children. This review identifies the most frequently documented persuasive marketing techniques to promote food to children via television. A systematic search of eight online databases using key search terms identified 267 unique articles. Thirty-eight articles met the inclusion criteria. A narrative synthesis of the reviewed studies revealed the most commonly reported persuasive techniques used on television to promote food to children. These were the use of premium offers, promotional characters, nutrition and health-related claims, the theme of taste, and the emotional appeal of fun. Identifying and documenting these commonly reported persuasive marketing techniques to promote food to children on television is critical for the monitoring and evaluation of advertising codes and industry pledges and the development of further regulation in this area. This has a strong potential to curbing the international obesity epidemic besieging children throughout the world.

Citation

Jenkin, G., Madhvani, N., Signal, L., Bowers, S., 2014, A systematic review of persuasive marketing techniques to promote food to children on television. Obesity Reviews doi:10.1111/obr.12141

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