Published: March 2015

ID #: 69552

Journal: PLoS ONE

Authors: Bernhardt AM, Wilking C, Gilbert-Diamond D, Emond JA, Sargent JD

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There is increasing concern that food advertising shapes the way children eat and contributes to childhood obesity. The fast food companies McDonald’s and Burger King participate in industry self-regulation, pledging to not engage in deceptive marketing and to market foods and beverages that meet certain nutritional criteria in children’s advertising. This study gauged the net impression of children ages 3 to 7 to children’s and adult advertisements from McDonald’s and Burger King. One hundred children viewed televised advertising for McDonald’s and Burger King children’s and adult meals, randomly drawn from ads that aired on U.S. television between July 2010 and June 2011. Immediately after seeing each ad, the children were asked to recall what they had seen, and their responses were evaluated for descriptors of food, healthy food, and premiums/tie-ins (e.g., toys). For both restaurants, participants were significantly less likely to recall food after viewing children’s ads compared to after viewing adult ads; and when participants did recall food items from children’s ads, they rarely recalled healthy options. The researchers conclude that there was an under-emphasis of food in children’s ads, and, while each children’s ad featured apples and milk, the companies failed to place appropriate emphasis on the healthy foods they advertised.

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