Today I decided to take a quick break from my normal theme of urban agriculture. Last week in a class of mine, we discussed the impact of food advertising on child audiences and the potential to enact a craving for certain foods and increase consumption due to the advertisements they were exposed to. The decision on whether to blame the food advertisers or the parents for these developed habits is what made me want to take a look into what children programming commercials actually look like.
In order to do this I broke the types of advertising into three categories: 1) nonfood advertisements 2) food ad that prompted snacking and/or fun product benefits 3) food ad that promoted nutrition benefits.
I choose to watch Nick during the early afternoon. During an hour of viewing the majority of commercials, 11, were non-food advertisements. Although not related to food, these commercials deployed very similar techniques as the successful food ads did. Making the product seem like the best out and the only solution to fulfilling your needs as a consumer. Another interesting part about these commercials was that a large majority of them were aimed for a stay at home parent, offering cleaning products, school options, smart phone apps, etc.
The next most frequent ads were ones that promoted snacking and/or fun product benefits, 7. These ads suggested that there product was the tool to achieving a status of “cool” amongst your peers. Seeing other children consuming a product you may enjoy and do things that you perceive to be “cool” can be a very influential visual to a young viewer. “Advertising for food and beverages communicates potentially powerful food consumption cues, including images of attractive models eating, snacking at non-meal times, and positive emotions linked to food consumption. (Harris, Bargh, & Brownell, 2009)
The nutrition benefit ads made up only 3 of the commercials I viewed, and were fairly ineffective in my opinion, poorly put together, cheesy, “uncool”.
Harris, Bargh, & Brownell performed a study in which a group of kids watched a T.V show featuring ads encouraging snacking and another watched a show with no ads. This study showed that kids who view these food ads had a much higher inclination to snack while watching, proving that seeing them increase the viewers desire to consume food. They also found that this urge continues after viewing has ended, meaning that even post viewing the urge to snack and consume food may be hard to avoid. This process of creating an urge to snack is known as priming.
The food, which was being advertised, was not food that I would encourage children to consume on a regular basis. Seeing this suggestive media makes me wonder what would happen if we did the same sort of thing for healthy food, and why we don’t already do it. Why not make good food cool and accessible? We see that “junk” food is able to create the urge for consumption; so non junk food can most certainly do the same thing.
At the end of the day I believe it comes down to the options of food consumption that the children are exposed to. If the child’s provider is stocking food that is an unhealthy choice, than the kid will of course consume that. On the other hand, if we are providing kids with healthy snack options than what will they choose to consume?