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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    • "Despite the fact that the taste was identical, the results revealed that children perceived it in a different way, preferring the McDonald's version, including in the case of carrots. The same results were shown by Gorn and Goldberg (1982), who demonstrated that advertising effectively influences children's preferences, in the case of healthy and unhealthy foods; Lipsky and Iannotti (2011) found that prolonged TV exposure to advertising can have a negative effect on children because it encourages them to consume junk food, such as fast food and candy, to the detriment of fruit and vegetables; Borzekowski and Robinson (2001) stated that 30 seconds of advertisements are enough to influence children's food preferences. Halford et al. (2004) studied 42 children divided into three groups (thin, overweight, and obese) who watched three cartoon videos interrupted by different kinds of advertisements and, meanwhile, they could choose to eat some foods (from an assortment of low-fat and high-fat food). "

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    • "9 After all, it is already well-known that food advertising increases the consumers' wanting for food, hence increasing their consumption of whatever food happens to be within reach. This is true in both children and adults (Borzekowski & Robinson, 2001; Halford et al., 2008; Harris, Bargh, & Brownell, 2009). It would seem that 'visual hunger' may well activate those behaviours that are associated with food consumption in a manner that is relatively automatic. "
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    • "Theoretical framework: elaboration likelihood model The ELM of persuasion (Petty and Cacioppo, 1984) is particularly relevant for the current analysis of food advertising targeted at children. Because food advertising is likely to influence the children targeted (Borzekowski and Robinson, 2001;Livingstone, 2005;Lobstein and Dibb, 2005;Institute of Medicine, 2006;Veerman et al., 2009;Andreyeva et al., 2011), advertisers are likely to use persuasive appeals that feature either central cues that are directly related to food product attributes (e.g. taste, nutritional information, quantity) or peripheral cues that are not directly related to advertised food products (e.g. "
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