The 30-second effect: An experiment revealing the impact of television commercials on food preferences of preschoolers

Stanford Center for Research in Disease Prevention, Palo Alto, Calif., USA.
Journal of the American Dietetic Association (Impact Factor: 3.92). 01/2001; 101(1):42-6.
Source: PubMed


To examine whether televised food commercials influence preschool children's food preferences.
In this randomized, controlled trial, preschool children viewed a videotape of a popular children's cartoon either with or without embedded commercials. Children were then asked to identify their preferences from pairs of similar products, one of which was advertised in the videotape with embedded commercials. Preschoolers' parents were interviewed to determine children's demographic characteristics and media use patterns.
Forty-six 2- to 6-year-olds from a Head Start program in northern California.
For demographic and media use characteristics, univariate data were examined and Student t and chi 2 tests were used to test for differences between the control and treatment groups. We calculated the Cochran Q statistic to assess whether the proportion of those choosing advertised food items was significantly higher in the treatment group than in the control group.
Children exposed to the videotape with embedded commercials were significantly more likely to choose the advertised items than children who saw the same videotape without commercials (Qdiff = 8.13, df = 1, P < .01).
Even brief exposures to televised food commercials can influence preschool children's food preferences. Nutritionists and health educators should advise parents to limit their preschooler's exposure to television advertisements. Furthermore, advocates should raise the public policy issue of advertising and young children, especially given the recent epidemic of childhood obesity and the ever-changing media environment.

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Available from: Dina L G Borzekowski, Oct 23, 2014
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    • "A host of other research has examined the link between marketing and child food behaviors. Early research linked child exposure to advertising with product preference (Borzekowski & Robinson, 2001), but further research has linked marketing exposures to experience. Robinson, Borzekowski, Matheson, and Kraemer (2007) found that products packaged with a heavily marketed brand are found by preschoolers to be tastier than those same foods in plain packaging. "
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    ABSTRACT: Studies regarding the advancing challenges of obesity in many countries are beginning to converge on the importance of early food exposure and consumption patterns. Across two studies (Study 1, 34 boys, 35 girls; Study 2, 40 boys, 35 girls, ages 3–6), child knowledge of brands offering products high in sugar, salt and fat was shown to be a significant predictor of child BMI, even after controlling for their age and gender and when also considering the extent of their TV viewing. Additionally, two different collage measures of brand knowledge (utilized across the two studies) performed similarly, suggesting that this measure may be serving as a surrogate indicator of an overall pattern of product exposure and consumption. Policy implications are discussed.
    Appetite 06/2014; 81. DOI:10.1016/j.appet.2014.06.017 · 2.69 Impact Factor
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    • "The majority of research on food marketing effects on children has focused on school-aged children (Harris et al, 2009). However, some studies indicate that advertising and branding effects develop earlier: preschool children aged 2-6 years preferred food items if they had seen advertisements for them embedded in videotaped programming (Borzekowski & Robinson, 2001); children's mental representations of fast food and soda brands at 3 to 5 years are positively related to their HFSS preferences (Cornwell & McAlister, 2011); and fast food brand knowledge at 4 to 8 years has been linked to higher body mass index (BMI) (Arredondo, Castaneda, Elder, Slyman & Dozier, 2009). "
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    ABSTRACT: Brand knowledge is a prerequisite of children's requests and choices for branded foods. We explored the development of young children's brand knowledge of foods highly advertised on television - both healthy and less healthy. Participants were 172 children aged 3 to 5 years in diverse socioeconomic settings, from two jurisdictions on the island of Ireland with different regulatory environments. Results indicated that food brand knowledge (i) did not differ across jurisdictions; (ii) increased significantly between 3 and 4 years; and (iii) children had significantly greater knowledge of unhealthy food brands, compared to similarly advertised healthy brands. In addition, (iv) children's healthy food brand knowledge was not related to their television viewing, their mother's education, or parent or child eating. However, (v) unhealthy brand knowledge was significantly related to all these factors, although only parent eating and children's age were independent predictors. Findings indicate that effects of food marketing for unhealthy foods take place through routes other than television advertising alone, and are present before pre-schoolers develop the concept of healthy eating. Implications are that marketing restrictions of unhealthy foods should extend beyond television advertising; and that family-focused obesity prevention programmes should begin before children are 3 years of age.
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    • "Children are frequently exposed to and influenced by persuasion attempts through food advertising (Batada and Wootan 2007; Borzekowski and Robinson 2001; Cairns, Angus, and Hastings 2009; Jeffrey, McLellarn, and Fox 1982; Moore and Rideout 2007; Roberto et al. 2010; Robinson et al. 2001), and these advertisements can have long term effects (Connel, Brucks, and Nielsen 2014). To understand how food messages affect children's consumption decisions, we rely on the distinction between instrumental and experiential benefits of activities. "
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    ABSTRACT: Marketers, educators, and caregivers often refer to instrumental benefits to convince preschoolers to eat (e.g., “this food will make you strong”). We propose that preschoolers infer that if food is instrumental to achieve a goal, it is less tasty, and therefore they consume less of it. Accordingly, we find that preschoolers (3-5.5 years old) rated crackers as less tasty and consumed fewer of them when the crackers were presented as instrumental to achieve a health goal (studies 1-2). In addition, preschoolers consumed fewer carrots and crackers when these were presented as instrumental to knowing how to read (study 3) and count (studies 4-5). This research supports an inference account for the negative impact of certain persuasive messages on consumption: preschoolers who are exposed to one association (e.g., between eating carrots and intellectual performance) infer another association (e.g., between carrots and taste) must be weaker.
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