Thursday, June 28, 2007
We need to stop irresponsible marketing toward children! This research study was very illuminating in that it showed how easy it is for brand-named foods to market to children via "Advergaming," which is a method where kids can play games off of the company's website, in which the advertised product is part of the game. This is a sly marketing strategy on a company's part since there is ample opportunity for the child to remember the food or beverage being advertised to them and link it with the fun game they had played, which ultimately promotes the sale of the product.
This study focused upon food and beverage brand-websites and what kind of marketing techniques/advertising they displayed upon their sites. The categories selected for the analysis were: beverages, soft drinks; beverages, other; fast food; ready-to-eat cereal; cookies; crackers; salted snacks; and candy. The researchers chose to select these categories because they are liked by and most regularly marketed toward children. 40 brands were chosen and 37 had their own websites. 85% of those websites had interactive components (sounds, animation, and movement) and 63% had Advergaming. Other marketing techniques included cartoon "spokescharacters" for the product, pictures of children consuming the product and downloadable branded coloring pages. ALL of the websites had tie-ins to TV shows, movies or cartoons.
Ostensibly, these Advergames and other fun interactive components are all a means to sell very unhealthy products to children. According to the study, children may not even be aware that they are being exposed to sophisticated marketing strategies. This is not acceptable in an age where the obesity epidemic is only getting wider. Registered Dietitians and other health professionals have to advocate for responsible marketing and ensure that the health of the children isn't tainted by these big corporate companies, only looking to raise their stock ratings.
The researchers of the study suggest that we use this new interactive technology to help children learn to make better choices in "fun and interesting ways." Already, MyPyramid.gov has a "kids area," which has some of the interactive games that websites like Nabisco and Kraft have. Unfortunately, I have been to this "kids area" on MyPyramid and they have yet to change it for the past year or so.
If we want to prevent kids from indulging in both the websites' games and their products, then we have to 1) make sure that we are keeping up with the marketing strategies and employ them in our own health websites and campaigns, and 2) keep our kids educated about nutrition and how processed foods affect their bodies so that they think twice before being mesmerized by the products and their stupid Advergames.
Check out the picture below to see how we can create games that kids can trust.
Internet Food Marketing Strategies Aimed at Children and Adolescents: A Content Analysis of Food and Beverage Brand Web Sites. Weber K, Story M, Harnack L. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. September 2006 (Vol. 106, Issue 9, Pages 1463-1466)
Posted by Marissa Beck at 2:33 PM
My personal blog here at Blogger is still going to remain intact; however, please visit my new website, http://marissabeck.wordpress.com, which will host more nutrition topics (because obviously you just can't get enough!)