Content Analysis of Food Advertising in the Context of Targeted Age

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2020-12

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Abstract

There has been a concern among researchers about the preponderance of televised food advertising targeting children as a contributor to childhood obesity. Yet, in order to fully understand the possible effects of food advertising, it is imperative to give attention to the content analysis of food advertising. This study examined the product categories of advertisements targeting children and compared the results of this study to the previous studies in order to understand the extent of food advertisements targeting children has changed since the last content analysis was done. In addition, this study examined the nutritional quality of the food products in the advertisements by classifying them according to nutrition guide prepared by U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (USDHHS). Finally, this study investigated how food product types and their nutritional quality differed depending on the age of the target audience by grouping the advertisements targeting preschoolers, school aged children, and adolescent. As consistent with previous content analyses, analysis of 1,762 food advertisements from three cable network primarily target children (Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, and Disney Channel) indicated that sweets/snacks were the most dominant food category (30.1%), followed by cereals (22.4%), salted snacks (15.3%), then beverages (10.3%) in food advertisements targeting children. All sweets/snacks, cereals, and the majority of beverages were sugared. In addition, the majority of the food advertisements promoted WHOA foods (66.3%) which the USDHHS recommended for children to stay away and only eat on special occasions. Finally, the majority of food advertisements that were high in cereals, sweets/snacks, salted snacks, beverages, fast food restaurants, and combination foods were concentrated on the category of school-aged children. These findings provide several theoretical and practical implications. In addition, recommendations for future studies are discussed.

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Keywords

advertising, health, food, television, marketing, children, school-aged, age

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