Television advertisements that showcase children’s beverages and foods, and target the parents may be misleading, because at times they view nutritionally poor products as healthy, a new study finds.
In the study – published November 9 in the journal Pediatrics – the researchers analysed American television commercials for children’s drinks and foods that aired on TV from 2012 to 2013.
The advertisements were placed into two different categories: those that were aimed at children, and those that were aimed at parents. The researchers divided the ads based on their themes and features. For instance, they considered that the more animated ads targeted children, while those that portrayed families targeted parents.
According to the researchers, the ads that targeted parents often promoted an active lifestyle, and had messages about health. Sugar-sweetened drinks were often praised as having 40 percent fewer calories than other beverage brands, the study found.
On the other side of the spectrum, the ads that targeted children were more focused on coolness, fantasy themes, and what taste the products might have.
Jennifer A. Emond, an instructor at Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College in in Hanover, New Hampshire and author of the study, believes that by targeting both parents and children while using different techniques, food-manufacturing companies are trying to make sure that people will buy their products.
The ads for kid get children excited about the product, which means that the likelihood of children asking their parents to buy them the product when they see it in a store becomes a lot higher, Emond said.
Ads that promote a healthy lifestyle and good nutrition target parents, in hopes that parents will not feel as guilty when they buy the product for their child, she added.
The findings also show that of the total airtime of commercials, the airtime that was aimed at parents was about 42 percent. Over the course of a year, more than 3,000 hours were dedicated to these ads, according to the researchers. The other 58 percent airtime consisted of commercials that targeted children.
Emond says that parents should be aware of the fact that children are not the only target audience when it comes to kids’ commercials. Parents are also being marketed to.
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