Weekday and weekend food advertising varies on children's television in the USA but persuasive techniques and unhealthy items still dominate

M. J. Vilaro, T. E. Barnett, A. M. Watson, J. W. Merten, A. E. Mathews

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Objective In 2006, food industry self-regulatory efforts aimed to balance the mix of food advertisements to limit children's exposure to unhealthy food products. An update to these efforts proposed to eliminate all unhealthy advertisements during peak child viewing times and implement uniform nutrition criteria by December, 2013. Marketing techniques are not currently addressed in self-regulatory efforts. The food industry's pledge prompted researchers to conduct a content analysis to assess nutritional quality and presence of persuasive marketing techniques in child-directed food and beverage advertisements. Study design Content analysis. Methods 32 h of children's television programming were recorded in February, 2013. Three independent coders assessed the nutritional content of food and beverage advertisements using the UK Nutrition Profiling System and assessed presence of persuasive techniques (PTs) using a rating form developed for this study. Results Overall, 13.75% of advertisements promoted a food or beverage product. Most food advertisements, 54.6%, represented unhealthy products and 95.48% of food advertisements contained at least one PT. The number of PTs was not significantly different for healthy (M = 4.98, SD = 2.07) and unhealthy food advertisements (M = 4.66, SD = 1.82) however food advertisements aimed at children used significantly more PTs (M = 5.5, SD = 1.43) than those targeting adults (M = 1.52, SD = 1.54), t (153) = 11.738, P < 0.0001. Saturday morning children's programming showed significantly fewer food advertisements compared to weekday morning children's programming. Conclusions While a majority of food-related advertisements represented unhealthy items, advertisements airing during Saturday morning programming featured fewer food advertisements overall and were more frequently for healthier items compared to weekdays. Industry self-regulation may not be effective for reducing overall unhealthy ad exposure but may play a role in reduced exposure on weekends. Despite policy efforts, additional changes are needed to improve ad exposure experienced by children with a focus on addressing the persistent use of persuasive marketing techniques in food advertising intended for children.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-30
Number of pages9
JournalPublic Health
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017


  • Children
  • Food advertising
  • Food marketing
  • Obesity
  • Persuasive techniques


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