During the study period, there were 1678 references to food in the 139 magazines analysed, an average of 12.1 per magazine issue. Considerably more food references were observed in Total Girl (354) than any other magazine, followed by Disney Girl (212), Girl Power and Little Angel (207 each), and Disney Adventures (194).
Branded food references
Approximately 16% (269) of the food references were portrayals of branded food products (or food brands). Only 83 of the 269 (30.9%) were clearly identified as being an advertisement – that is, they either included the word ‘advertisement’ or were presented separately from the editorial content of the magazine (Table 3). A substantially greater number (104; 38.7%) were product placements from a food company; that is branded food references that were not separate from the editorial content of the magazine (such as the ‘what's hot now’ pages).
Table 3. Advertisements and promotions in children's magazines
|Regular Food Advertisement||83||30.9|
|Non-Food Advertisement (By Food Company)||14||5.2|
|Advertisement for Premium||9||3.3|
|Puzzle / Game||6||2.2|
Just under 20% of branded food references were competitions, with children able to enter to win a prize ranging from confectionery to electronic equipment. Just over two-thirds (68%) of the prizes were confectionery (56% (n = 27), a small amount of confectionery valued at under AU$30; 12% (n = 6) confectionery valued at over AU$30 value); 19% (n = 9) were a combination of confectionery with other prizes (e.g.; stationery, books, movie passes, magazine subscriptions, etc.); and 13% (n = 6) were large prizes (such as an electronic console. An example of the latter is a competition with prizes that included an LCD television, PS3 console, PSP console, DVDs, stationery, jelly bean confectionery and merchandise and movie tickets.
A far smaller number were non-food advertisements by food companies , 12 of which were sports-related; advertisements for premiums , five for Hungry Jacks and four for McDonalds; and puzzles or games . 2
Of these 269 branded food references, 232 were for non-core foods (86.2%) (Fig. 1). There were only 37 (13.8%) branded food references featuring core foods: 20 product placements; 7 regular food advertisements; 5 non-food advertisements; 4 competitions and one puzzle/game. These were predominantly for core foods, such as tinned fish and baked beans , dairy products, such as milk, cheese and yoghurt ; ‘healthy’ breakfast cereal 3; and fruit and vegetables, including tinned corn kernels and sultanas .
Of the non-core foods featured in these advertisements and promotions, over half (51.3%) were for chocolate and confectionery, followed by snack foods (14.1%), high sugar drinks and ice-blocks (6.7%) and non-core fast food or takeaway (6.7%).
Our 2005 study  found a total of 444 branded food references across 82 issues of seven children's magazines; that is, an average of 5.4 per issue (substantially higher than the 1.9 per issue in the current study). However, in that earlier study 38.3% of branded food references were not identified as a food advertisement (either presented as an ‘editorial’ or a non-food advertisement by a food company), increasing to 43.9% in the current study.
Comparing the six magazine titles that were included in both studies, we note both positive and negative changes in the presentation of branded food references (Table 4). The most striking finding is the overall drop in branded food references (from 442 to 163). We note increases in the proportions of ‘regular food ads’ (from 13 to 27%), competitions (from 16 to 23%), promotions not identified as advertisements (33 to 37%) and non-food ads by food companies (from 3 to 7%); and decreases in the proportions of advertisements for premiums (from 13 to 5%), puzzles or games (from 14 to 1%), and references that could not be classified (from 7% to nil).
Table 4. Food advertisements or promotions 2005 and 2010 (by magazine)
| ||Total Girl||Mania||Disney Adventures||DMag||K-Zone||Krash||Total|
| ||Coding category||2005||2010||2005||2010||2005||2010||2005||2010||2005||2010||2005||2010||2005||2010|
|A||Regular Food Ads||16||5||0||5||13||19||6||0||18||3||4||12||57 (13%)||44 (27%)|
|B||Ads for Premiums||18||2||0||2||18||0||3||1||19||3||1||0||59 (13%)||8 (5%)|
|C||Competitions||13||4||12||7||21||16||0||2||23||5||2||3||71 (16%)||37 (23%)|
|D||Puzzles or Games||20||0||0||1||14||0||0||1||27||0||0||0||61 (14%)||2 (1%)|
|E||Promotions – Not Identified as Ads||37||21||13||9||31||24||5||1||47||4||13||2||146 (33%)||61 (37%)|
|F||Non-Food Ads by Food Companies||5||2||3||1||3||1||1||6||3||1||0||0||15 (3%)||11 (7%)|
However, these figures obscure a number of interesting findings at the individual title level. We note that those magazines with few branded food references in 2005 (Mania, D-Mag and Krash) have had modest declines in the number of these messages and, for two of them, substantial increases in the proportion clearly identified as food advertisements. However, a different pattern emerges for the three that had a large number of branded food references in 2005. We note a substantial increase in promotions not identified as advertisements in Total Girl (from 27 4 to 62%); and a smaller, but still notable increase, in Disney Adventures (from 31 to 40%).
Of the magazines included in this study, Disney Adventures had by far the most advertisements and promotions, almost double that of the second-highest magazine, with 60 branded food references across 12 issues (an average of 5.0 per issue). Four magazines averaged two or more branded food references per issue (Total Girl, Disney Girl, Just Kidding and Girl Power); and five averaged between one and two per issue. Only three of the magazine titles (Scientriffic, Bratz and Wacky … But True!) contained no branded food references. Scientriffic is produced by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) and does not carry advertising other than promotions for educational programs and science websites; Wacky … But True (which is designed for educational purposes and has a no-advertising policy); and Bratz magazine (which targets young girls) and does not appear to carry advertising other than for Bratz products and other magazines published by Otter Press.
It is interesting to note that the 60 branded food references in Disney Adventures represent 30.9% of the 194 food references in that title during the study period, whereas the 34 advertisements in Total Girl make up just 9.6% of its 354 food references in the year (Table 5).
Table 5. Food advertisements or promotions (by magazine)
| ||Freq||%||Average number per issue||% of all food references|
|Wacky … But True!||0||-||0.0||0.0%|
The 269 advertisements and promotions were for 78 different companies. Table 6 shows all companies that featured in more than two advertisements or promotions in children's magazines during 2009.
Table 6. Companies/brands featured in advertisements and promotions
| ||Foods promoted||Core||Non-core||Total|
|Coca Cola||Soft drinks||0||7||7|
|Hungry Jacks||Fast food||0||5||5|
The most frequent children's magazine advertiser, All Fect, manufacture the ‘Cosmic’ brand of candy, which featured in 23 advertisements. Other prominent advertisers included Cadbury with 18 advertisements, all of which were for non-core foods (all were chocolate products, predominantly Easter eggs, Cadbury koalas and Freddo® frogs) and Nestle with 15 advertisements, 14 of which were for non-core foods (predominantly for Milo, Smarties and a range of cookies).