Food advertising during children's television programming on broadcast and cable channels

Carmen Stitt, Dale Kunkel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


The rise in the number of overweight and obese children in the United States is recognized as a serious health threat. Among the factors contributing to this increase is the preponderance of food marketing on television targeted at children. Previous content analysis studies have identified patterns of food product types that are commonly associated with unhealthy diets, but few have attempted to independently evaluate the nutritional quality of advertised foods. This study identifies the nature and extent of food marketing messages presented during children's television programs, while also classifying the products advertised using a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services consumer food rating scheme. The findings indicate that food advertising accounts for nearly half of all commercial messages on children's programs. An average hour includes 11 food ads that account for 4:25 of total ad time. Broadcast channels deliver more food advertising than cable channels, although the types of food products marketed on both channels are highly similar. The overwhelming majority of foods ads directed to children are for high-calorie, low nutrient food products that should not be part of a regular diet. These data provide a baseline for evaluating anticipated future industry efforts at reform, such as attempts to comply with a recent Institute of Medicine (2006) policy recommendation that food marketing to children should be balanced between more healthy and less healthy food products within two years time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)573-584
Number of pages12
JournalHealth Communication
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication


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