Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Health & Parenting

Font Size

Fast-Food Ads Aimed at Kids Focus on Toys, Not Food

Almost 70 percent include free toys or other giveaways, study says

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Mary Elizabeth Dallas

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Aug. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Unlike fast-food advertisements geared toward adults, which feature burgers and fries, those targeting children focus more on free toys, movie tie-ins and other giveaways, according to a new study.

In light of their findings, researchers called for more regulation of fast-food marketing to children.

"Given health concerns about obesity and its relation to fast-food consumption, enhanced oversight of fast-food marketing to children at the local, state and federal level is needed to align advertising to children with health promotion efforts and existing principles of honest and fair marketing to children," the study's authors wrote.

The study, led by Dr. James Sargent, a professor of pediatrics at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College, involved fast-food ads appearing on children's television networks, such Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network. These ads were compared to fast-food marketing campaigns geared toward adults.

The study, published Aug. 28 in the journal PLoS One, revealed that the advertisements aimed at children featured food packaging, movie tie-ins and exterior shots of the fast-food restaurants. Almost 70 percent of the kids' ads also included free toys or other giveaways.

In contrast, the campaigns targeting adults focused on the taste, cost and portion size of the foods available at the restaurant. The researchers noted that only 1 percent of the adult ads included a giveaway.

"Fast-food companies use free toys and popular movies to appeal to kids, and their ads are much more focused on promotions, brands and logos -- not on the food," Sargent said in a news release from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which funded the study.

"These are techniques that the companies' own self-regulatory body calls potentially misleading," Sargent said.

The researchers noted that previous studies have shown that associating fast food with cartoon characters can influence children's perceptions about how food tastes and also increase their consumption. The Better Business Bureau has also stated that children's ads should feature food that has met certain nutritional criteria.

Today on WebMD

Girl holding up card with BMI written
Is your child at a healthy weight?
toddler climbing
What happens in your child’s second year.
 
father and son with laundry basket
Get your kids to help around the house.
boy frowning at brocolli
Tips for dealing with mealtime mayhem
 
mother and daughter talking
Tool
child brushing his teeth
Slideshow
 
Sipping hot tea
Slideshow
Young woman holding lip at dentists office
Video
 
6-Week Challenges
Want to know more?
Chill Out and Charge Up Challenge – How to help your tribe de-stress and energize.
Spark Change Challenge - Ready for a healthy change? Get some major motivation.
I have read and agreed to WebMD's Privacy Policy.
Enter cell phone number
- -
Entering your cell phone number and pressing submit indicates you agree to receive text messages from WebMD related to this challenge. WebMD is utilizing a 3rd party vendor, CellTrust, to provide the messages. You can opt out at any time.
Standard text rates apply
Which Vaccines Do Adults Need
Article
rl with friends
fitSlideshow
 
tissue box
Quiz
Child with adhd
Slideshow