Junk Food Injunction- Latest Edition
Message from the Editors
In this newsletter we are pleased to feature the updated report on food marketing to children in Australia, Children’s Health or Corporate Wealth?. Our survey of NSW adults found the community is still concerned about food marketing to children. We also look at several Australian studies, one looking at alcohol and junk food ads during sport and another on the role parents play in choosing children’s fast food meals. We report on a threat to the Children’s Television Standards, a Queensland report on outdoor advertising and some recent complaints about website games. Finally, we feature two international studies, both looking at characters on packaging and in advertising.
We hope you enjoy reading,
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News around Australia
Almost three quarters of people in NSW support a ban on unhealthy food advertising that targets children and 74% of parents want support from the government to protect children from unhealthy food marketing on television.
The Children’s Health or Corporate Wealth? Brief Report outlines why the current self-regulatory system is not working to protect children from unhealthy food marketing and why government regulation should be considered.
Click here to read our brief report, Childrens’ Health or Corporate Wealth?
Read our survey Community attitudes to food marketing to children here.
Centre for sport and social impact LU. Alcohol and junk food advertising and promotion through sport, research highlights. VicHealth 2014 April [cited 2014 Apr 4]
A Victorian study found that even though sports broadcasting took up less than a third of the television programming time almost half of all junk food and alcohol ads were broadcast during that time. The study also looked at the broadcast of in-game advertising (signs around the ground and on uniforms) and found alcohol, junk food and sugary drinks were on the screen about 12% of the time during Australian Football League broadcasts and 8%, 16% and 61% of the time during test cricket, one-day international cricket and 20/20 cricket broadcasts respectively.
The report calls on removal of the exemption of alcohol advertising during live sports broadcasts in the Children’s Television Standards and recommends further investigation of sponsorship and the effects of in-game advertising on children.
A recent study by Cancer Council NSW and the University of Newcastle asked parents whether they or their children chose fast food meals for their children. The survey of 477 parents of children aged 3-12 years also analysed the energy (kilojoule) content of the meal the parents said their child would have.
The majority of parents (60%) reported that they and their child chose the meals together, while 27% reported that the child was solely responsible and 13% of parents stated they were solely responsible. The energy content of the fast food meal chosen decreased as the parent’s involvement increased – that is, the more the parent assisted the child in meal choice, the healthier the meal chosen.
This study demonstrates the benefit of parents being involved in their children’s food choices away from home.
Wellard L, Chapman K, Wolfenden L, Dodds P, Hughes C, Wiggers J. Who is responsible for selecting children's fast food meals, and what impact does this have on energy content of the selected meals? Nutrition & Dietetics 2014; available online.
Recent media reports that the government is considering the future of the Children’s Television Standards (CTS) could have implications for the regulation of food marketing to children on television. Presently, clauses in the standards set requirements about the volume and content of ads during C-rated programs (content for children under 14 years) and require P-rated programs for preschool children to be ad-free. Jane Martin from the Obesity Policy Coalition said that the CTS offers some protection for children watching free-to-air television. She is concerned that any moves to reduce the advertising restrictions within the CTS would allow marketers to directly advertise to children.
It is worrying that the removal of the CTS would lead to a reliance on the self-regulatory advertising initiatives. These initiatives set up by the advertising and food industry have had little effect on protecting children from advertising on television. This has been demonstrated with many studies showing a proliferation of advertising of unhealthy food to children at other times when children are watching television despite the self-regulatory initiatives.
According to the report there may be opportunity for public input later this year.
The report into sexually explicit outdoor advertising to the Queensland Parliament has made several recommendations which could be used to improve the regulation of junk food advertising. The recommendations include:
- Introduce legislation to establish a co-regulatory approach to outdoor advertising.
- Develop a placement policy to provide clear advice about the appropriate content of outdoor advertising near locations frequented by children such as schools and child care centres.
- Potential breaches of the Code of Ethics regarding sex, nudity and sexuality should be considered without the need for a complaint.
- Amend the Australian Association of National Advertisers Code of Ethics so that it puts beyond doubt that the ‘relevant audience’ for outdoor advertising includes children.
Health and Community Services Committee. Inquiry into sexually explicit outdoor advertising. Queensland Parliament, Parliamentary Committees January 2014
This year the voluntary industry-developed Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative (RCMI) was updated to include company owned websites but not apps in the definition of media.
A child may not be aware that a game they play on their mobile phone or computer is a form of advertising yet there is evidence children may process the associated branding more deeply than in an obvious advertisement because they are preoccupied with the game and are trusting and uncritical of its messages. Such games also generate positive feelings such as a sense of achievement, fun or adventure, and these feelings become associated with the brands.
Some recent complaints about website games and apps have been rejected by the Advertising Standards Board (ASB).
- On the Yogo alley website children can play dozens of different games prompted by YoGorilla; create their own YoVatar, a personalised character or avatar and sign up to receive special privileges. In dismissing the complaint, the ASB said that the message that appears to tell a player they have been on the site for 30 minutes is sufficient to cover the clause in the RCMI that ‘messaging should encourage physical activity’. ASB case no 0075/14.
- The Wizz Fizz website features brightly coloured characters, has a members section with special offers and a game featuring packs of Wizz Fizz. In dismissing the complaint the ASB said that the RCMI does not apply as the manufacturer, Fyna Foods is not a signatory. ASB case no 0101/14.
People feel more connected to and trust brands more when they make eye contact with the character on the pack. A group of researchers in the US tested this by manipulating the eyes on the Trix cereal rabbit. The researchers also looked at the gaze height of characters on cereal packets on US shelves. They found the characters’ eyes were focussed at different heights depending on whether they were cereals primarily targeting adults or children. Children’s cereals featured characters that made eye contact with children while adult cereal characters made eye contact at a greater height. These findings suggest that, while helping to sell cereal, the characters’ eye contact may have an ongoing effect on fostering loyalty to the product.
Musicus A, Tal A, Wansink B. Eyes in the aisles: why is Cap'n Crunch looking down at my child? Environment and Behavior 2014 Apr 2;In Press
In a series of studies investigating people’s feelings about products endorsed by company characters, researchers looked at the influence of the Kellogg’s cereals’ characters Tony the Tiger and Coco the Monkey. They divided participants into those that were children when Tony the Tiger was used in advertising in the UK (since 1952) and another group, when Coco the Monkey was featured (since 1986). Those who only experienced the monkey mascot as adults rated the cereal it advertised as less healthy, while they had more positive feelings towards the tiger mascot that they saw as children. Those with childhood exposure to both mascots had positive feelings to both cereals. Even a fictitious product with Tony the Tiger on the pack was deemed healthier by those who had positive feelings towards Tony the Tiger.
These findings have implications on the impact of pester power. A child’s pestering for a product endorsed by a character could exploit a vulnerability in parents if they have a positive feeling for that character.
Connell PM, Brucks M, Nielsen JH. How Childhood Advertising Exposure Can Create Biased Product Evaluations That Persist into Adulthood. Journal of Consumer Research 2014;4