Online Food and Beverage Marketing to Children - What does the research tell us?

5:30 PM, 13 April 2015

Marketing to Children

There is considerable disquiet among campaigners and some academic researchers over the ways in which food and beverage products - particularly high fat, salt, or sugar products (HFSS) - are marketed and the impact this is believed to have on eating habits and child health. This forms part of the broader debate on children's use of digital media and its implications for their physical, emotional, social, and mental well being.

However an international literature review, recently conducted by the UK's Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), shows the evidence in support of such concerns remains limited.

The research found significant limitations to the literature available, notably a need for evidence of a causal effect of online advertising on children's actual eating habits, and more research undertaken with consideration toward the existing regulatory situation in a market (such as New Zealand).

The studies reviewed in this report are from around the world and span several years. Inevitably many were found to be out-of-date, although their findings are regularly repeated in other papers. The authors found that much of the academic, and all of the 'grey' literature reviewed in this report is written by or for critics of such marketing and, as such, needs to be approached with some caution.

The authors also identified that there is a need for more long-term research that measures behavioural effects of online advertising exposure, as well as a need for more sophisticated methods of measuring online advertising exposure. This should take into account the existing regulatory situation in any market and its effectiveness.

ANZA supports New Zealand's self regulatory efforts in this area. What are your thoughts? ANZA welcomes feedback to lindsay@anza.co.nz.

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