Background: Commercial marketing of children’s food products has been scrutinised as a potential contributor to the childhood obesity epidemic and for its role in promoting excess consumption of energy-dense and nutrient-poor (unhealthy) foods. To help address rising rates of obesity in children, evidence is needed concerning impacts of common forms of marketing for unhealthy child-oriented foods and the efficacy of educational interventions in counteracting any detrimental impacts of such marketing.
Aim: To explore parents’ responses to advertising for unhealthy children’s food products and test the efficacy of corrective advertising in bolstering parents’ resistance to being misled by such advertising.
Methods: Using an online experimental design, 1,500 Australian parents of children aged 5-12 years will be randomly assigned to one of five advertising conditions: (i) non-food ad (control); (ii) conventional confectionery ad; (iii) pseudo-healthy snack food ad; (iv) conventional confectionery ad plus corrective ad; (v) pseudo-healthy snack food ad plus corrective ad. Following exposure to their assigned advertisements, parents will be shown different types of snacks, including those promoted in the food advertisements (confectionery, pseudo-healthy snack) and the corrective advertisement (whole fruit snack). Parents will nominate which product they would prefer to buy, then rate each product’s level of healthiness and sugar content.
Results: Data are being collected in July/August 2019 with results available for presentation at the conference. Analyses will examine: impacts of different types of unhealthy food advertising on parents’ product preferences and perceptions of how healthy advertised products are; whether corrective advertising makes parents less susceptible to influence by advertising for unhealthy food products.
Conclusion: By testing responses to current, ‘real world’ advertising and to corrective advertising that could feasibly be disseminated through mass media, this study will yield timely, practical evidence that could readily be translated into policy and practice to assist with childhood obesity prevention efforts.