Children are a major influence on household food purchases and have been described by one major marketing company as an 'advertisers' dream', an important force in the market place not only on their own account , but on the amount of influence they exert on the purchases of their parents. This 'pester power' is highly influential. Research has also shown that two-thirds of children who asked their parents for advertised products were granted their requests.
Author of Children: Advertisers' Dream. Nutrition Nightmare?. The Case for More Responsibility in Food Advertising (National Food Alliance) 1993.
Researcher and Author of reports on children's food advertising for the Food Commission.
Co-director of The Food Commission, an Independent non-profit consumer organisation, and co-editor of its journal, The Food Magazine. Author and consultant on books, reports, reports, TV programmes on children and food.
Full cv: (not available for this witness)
I have looked at food advertising aimed at children and examined its impact on children's food preferences and choices. I have found that the majority of food and soft drink advertisements screened during children's television programming are food foods/drinks that are high in fats and/or sugars - the kinds of foods that are unlikely to promote healthier eating. These foods are portrayed as attractive, desirable and even seemingly healthy food choices.
I carried out two surveys for the Food Commission which monitored adverts during a week of children's programmes. The first, in 1990 found that McDonalds were the fifth highest advertised food product out of a total of 42 different products. The second in 1992 found that McDonalds was the second most highly advertised food product.
My research has found that there is much evidence to show that children are highly influenced by advertising and that there is a causal link between advertising and food selection. Research also shows that the higher the viewing for particular adverts, the greater the children's requests for those products. Children have also been shown to be three times more responsive to advertising than adults.
Children are a major influence on household food purchases and have been described by one major marketing company as an "advertisers' dream", an important force in the market place not only on their own account, but on the amount of influence they exert on the purchases of their parents. This 'pester power' is highly influential. Research has also shown that two-thirds of children who asked their parents for advertised products were granted their requests.
While children are highly responsive to advertising, their ability to fully understand its purpose is less well developed. Children's ability to understand advertising varies enormously according to age, with young children the most impressionable. Not until children are seven or eight are their cognitive skills significantly developed to begin to understand advertising. However understanding advertising's purpose is no defence against its influence.
My research has also shown that characters used in advertising are very important to children. While young children may not be able to fully distinguish between programmes and adverts, four year olds have been shown to be brand conscious and able to correlate characters with brand products.
The use of characters and personalities which lend appeal and apparent endorsement is a major trend in children's food and drink marketing. The use of such characters can be said to play upon children's affection and loyalty to their favourite characters.
To indicate the popularity of characters used in adverts, the Food Commission carried out a small scale survey of eighty-seven eight year olds in 1990. This found that Tony the Tiger (Frosties) and Ronald McDonald (McDonalds) were more popular than the child's father, their teacher or their grandparents, in response to the question: 'Who would you like to take you out for a treat?'
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