This study explored diverse stakeholders’ accountability expectations and actions for industry policies and practices that used cartoon brand mascots and media characters to market foods and beverages to American children. A companion paper examined how media characters may influence diet-related outcomes for children younger than 12 years. Investigators used a four-step accountability framework to identify accountability gaps and actions that stakeholders can take to align marketing practices with healthy food environments. The evaluation found that between 2000 and 2015, no progress was made by the U.S. government to appoint an independent body to hold industry accountable for brand mascot and media character marketing practices. Moderate progress was made by stakeholders for taking the account (assessment) and sharing the account (communication), limited progress was made for holding industry and government agencies to account (recognition and enforcement), and limited progress was made by all stakeholders in responding to the account (strengthening accountability structures). The evaluation identified two important accountability gaps, including the need for an independent or government body to establish clear performance expectations with timelines and incentives for companies to implement best-practice marketing, and the need for disincentives or consequences for company underperformance or non-participation in self-regulatory programs.
An Accountability Evaluation for the Industry’s Responsible Use of Brand Mascots and Licensed Media Characters to Market a Healthy Diet to American Children
The Use of Brand Mascots and Media Characters: Opportunities for Responsible Food Marketing to Children
This issue brief examines the evidence on how food, beverage, restaurant, and entertainment companies have used brand mascots and cartoon media characters to influence children’s diet and health. Brand mascots and media characters represent a broad range of human or fictional kid-friendly animals or animated objects used by companies to … More
Influence of Food Companies’ Brand Mascots and Entertainment Companies’ Cartoon Media Characters on Children’s Diet and Health: A Systematic Review and Research Needs
This paper examines the influence of cartoon brand mascots and media characters on diet-related cognitive, behavioral, and health outcomes for children ages 2 to 11 through a review of 11 experimental studies published between 2004 and 2014. Researchers categorized results into outcomes such as character or brand recognition, taste or … More
Retailers and other organizations currently use a variety of nutrition standards and recommendations to guide consumers towards healthier, “Better for You”, options. This variety can be confusing to consumers. Healthy Eating Research convened a scientific advisory committee to review existing “Better-For-You” nutrition standards, and analyze their strengths and weaknesses. The … More