A study funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Healthy Eating Research Program claims that a decrease in TV food advertisements directed to children is “likely related to a shift in marketing tactics” as advertisers “migrate to new media such as Internet-based advergames and social media.” Dale Kunkel, et al., “Evaluating Industry Self-Regulation of Food Marketing to Children,” American Journal of Preventative Medicine, May 2015. After conducting a “systemic content analysis of food advertisements appearing in children’s TV programs on the most popular cable and broadcast channels,” the researchers report a decline of 25 percent in the rate at which food ads appeared during children’s programming. They also note a decrease in the use of licensed characters among signatories of the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative.
The study opines, however, that the foods and beverages advertised to children still fail to meet stringent nutritional standards. “The lack of significant improvement in the nutritional quality of food marketed to children is likely a result of the weak nutritional standards for defining healthy foods employed by industry, and because a substantial proportion of child-oriented food marketers do not participate in selfregulation,” state the authors, who ultimately recommend government restrictions on food marketing to children. “The lack of success achieved by self-regulation indicates that other policy actions are needed to effectively reduce children’s exposure to obesogenic food advertising.”