Food and beverage advertising on children's web sites

Authors


Summary

What is already known about this subject

  • Food and beverage advertising contributes to childhood obesity.
  • Display advertising on children's web sites is a prominent technique used to promote food to children.
  • Industry self-regulation has not substantially improved food marketing to children in other media, such as television and food company web sites.

What this study adds

  • More than 3 billion display advertisements for food and beverages were viewed on popular children's web sites from July 2009 to June 2010.
  • Three-quarters of these advertisements promoted brands that food companies identified as healthier dietary choices to be included in child-directed food advertising.
  • However, 84% of these ads promoted products high in fat, sugar and/or sodium.

Background

Food marketing contributes to childhood obesity. Food companies commonly place display advertising on children's web sites, but few studies have investigated this form of advertising.

Objectives

Document the number of food and beverage display advertisements viewed on popular children's web sites, nutritional quality of advertised brands and proportion of advertising approved by food companies as healthier dietary choices for child-directed advertising.

Methods

Syndicated Internet exposure data identified popular children's web sites and food advertisements viewed on these web sites from July 2009 through June 2010. Advertisements were classified according to food category and companies' participation in food industry self-regulation. The percent of advertisements meeting government-proposed nutrition standards was calculated.

Results

3.4 billion food advertisements appeared on popular children's web sites; 83% on just four web sites. Breakfast cereals and fast food were advertised most often (64% of ads). Most ads (74%) promoted brands approved by companies for child-directed advertising, but 84% advertised products that were high in fat, sugar and/or sodium. Ads for foods designated by companies as healthier dietary choices appropriate for child-directed advertising were least likely to meet independent nutrition standards.

Conclusions

Most foods advertised on popular children's web sites do not meet independent nutrition standards. Further improvements to industry self-regulation are required.

Ancillary