Online Food Ads Target Children, Report Says

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), August 16, 2006 | Go to article overview

Online Food Ads Target Children, Report Says


Byline: Andrea Valdez Medill News Service

Sixteen percent of American children age six to 11 are diagnosed as obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Experts point to several contributing factors for why 9 million children are overweight, but the effects of online food marketing on children's eating habits and lifestyles has become a hot topic for the Federal Trade Commission, the Institute of Medicine and other concerned groups. Yet there have been no public studies done on the subject.

Until now.

The Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit private foundation based in California that focuses on major health care issues, last week released the first analysis of online food marketing advertising targeted to children.

The report, titled "It's Child's Play: Advergaming and the Online Marketing of Food to Children" produced some significant findings. For example, 85 percent of the brands that use television advertising aimed at children also have Web sites that do the same, or they host content that would be of interest to children.

"We did this (analysis) because over the past year, there has been an increasing focus on food marketing to children," said Vicky Rideout, vice president and director of Kaiser's Program for the Study of Entertainment Media and Health, the overseer of the research. "In reports that we have seen from the Federal Trade Commission, Congress and the Institute of Medicine, they all noted the lack of data about online food advertising and we wanted to fill that gap and provide some information."

The author of the report, Elizabeth Moore, Ph.D. and associate professor of marketing at the University of Notre Dame, studied 77 Web sites and more than 4,000 unique Web pages from June to November 2005. Moore and her colleagues determined which sites to study by visiting the corporate or brand Web sites of the most popular foods advertised on television. They targeted foods from several different categories, including cereals, cookies, candy, drinks and prepared foods.

Almost a dozen of the brand Web sites studied by Kaiser belonged to Northfield-based Kraft Foods Inc., including Thecheesiest.com and Postopia.com. A representative for the company, Nancy Daigler, vice president of corporate and government affairs for Kraft, said there was not substantial evidence to link child obesity to food marketing. …

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