Television food advertising to children: nature, extent and potential consequences

Boyland, Emma ORCID: 0000-0001-8384-4994
Television food advertising to children: nature, extent and potential consequences. Doctor of Philosophy thesis, University of Liverpool.

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Background: Experimental studies have shown that exposure to food advertising on television can affect children’s food preferences, choices and consumption in the short-term. However, little is known about the role of habitual television viewing (and therefore food advert exposure) and its potential relationship with brand awareness, brand requests, food preferences and weight status in children. The published research examining the UK television food advertising landscape also has a number of limitations that restrict its usefulness in assessing the potential influence of such food promotion on children’s diets. The current thesis used innovative methodologies to examine hypotheses arising from these issues in 6-13 year old children and on the UK television channels most popular with this age group. Key Findings: Effects of acute, experimental food advertising exposure (Chapter 3): Relative to toy advertisement exposure, food advertising exposure increased all children’s selection of branded and non-branded fat and carbohydrate items from food preference measures. No weight status differences in food preferences or response to advertising were found. Preferences for branded food items were particularly enhanced in high TV viewing children following food adverts suggesting that these children may have an increased susceptibility to these messages. However, all children were better able to recognise food adverts than toy adverts. Effects of habitual food advertising exposure (Chapters 3-5): Food preference differences between high and low TV viewers were evident in the absence of experimental television food advertising exposure in Chapters 4 and 5. All children were better able to correctly identify product names from brand character stimuli than vice versa. Higher habitual advertising exposure did not confer a greater ability to recognise food advertisements (Chapter 3) nor identify brand characters or products. Children with greater brand awareness did not display greater self-reported preferences for branded food items. The extent of food advertising on UK television (Chapter 6): Food advertising on television varied across channels, channel types, broadcast platforms, viewing times and recording periods (months of the year). The foods advertised on the channels most popular with young people were predominantly unhealthy items, even during periods when large numbers of children are watching, with promotions for healthy foods comprising less than a fifth of all food advertisements. The nature of food advertising on UK television (Chapter 6): Promotional characters (such as brand equity characters, licensed characters and celebrities) were often used to promote unhealthy foods to young people, although their use to promote healthier food items was greatest on dedicated children’s channels. Food adverts aimed at children principally rely on ‘fun’ as a key attribute of both the advertising experience and the use/consumption of the product. Food brand websites were most likely to be promoted during food adverts aimed at teenagers or adults. Implications: This thesis increases understanding of the effects of habitual food advertising exposure on food preferences and food preference responses to acute, experimental food advertising, in addition to providing a comprehensive assessment of the television food advertising landscape in the UK following regulatory reform.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy)
Additional Information: Date: 2011-01 (completed)
Subjects: ?? BF ??
?? HF ??
Divisions: Faculty of Health and Life Sciences > Institute of Population Health
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 15 Sep 2011 14:56
Last Modified: 16 Dec 2022 04:34
DOI: 10.17638/00001474
  • Halford, JCG
  • Harrold, Jo
  • Kirkham, Tim