Media, Shaping Youth: Kaiser Study Shows 50 Hours of TV Food Ads/Yr.

tv-clip-art.jpgKaiser Family Foundation released the largest study ever conducted of TV food advertising to children today. I’ll keep my editorializing to a minimum, since I mirror the CSPI food industry guidelines on advertising responsibility.

The study, Food for Thought: Television Food Advertising to Children in the United States, was presented at a forum with U.S. Senator Sam Brownback, U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, food industry leaders, health officials, and consumer advocates, with validating stats which mirror our own data being released this Friday to the San Francisco Foundation who subsidized Shaping Youth’s counter-marketing of junk food in our living lab at Allen School.

You can download Kaiser’s full report, or summary here, as well as a webcast and mp3 of the session (available after 12:30 p.m. ET) but the link isn’t live yet.

For context in this Food Fight, I’m linking to some pro and con parental comments from the AdRants blog since they come from parents IN advertising and the food industry who have chosen to sound off on both sides of this debate. (most of us feel it’s a ‘no-brainer’ to protect kids’ health, but regulatory shenanigans require circumspect debate, and it all gets quite complex)

As both the Kaiser study and our own Shaping Youth data implies, there’s a direct correlation with what goes into kids minds and what goes into their bodies. We’re proud (and a bit amazed) to receive an 82% average test score from kids in our “Dare to Compare: A Gross Out Game for Good Nutrition!” pilot program.

We used media and marketing techniques on our high risk Hispanic demographic, and it proved hands-down that if you USE entertainment to flip the message in a positive direction with kids, they retain and apply the nutritional information.

Kids literally digested our Shaping Youth ‘reality game’ as ‘sound bites’ which tells me this teaching technique works well for ‘Generation M’ when it’s put into a “media, mind and body” commercial context.

Snack Attack Packs, Eat Like An Ape, Candy Bar Breakfasts, Liquid Candy…
phrases like these resonate with kids far more than food pyramid factoids and numeric data. Show and Tell. Get gross. Get visual. Use the media format of fun. Innovate to educate. That’s what it comes down to in our Shaping Youth counter-marketing games.

P.S. Update 3/29: Here’s an Ad Age article with industry response to the study, “Young Children See Up to 50 hours of Food Ads A Year” discussing the ‘threat of regulation.’



  1. Very strange that no news organization has referenced media literacy as an important and key strategy for parents and schools to utilize in coping with and understanding of the techniques that advertisers use to attract and motivate audiences.

  2. You’re right, it’s a huge gaping hole that SHOULD be prominent.

    Shaping Youth is wrapping up our latest counter-marketing outcomes on this very issue in our latest Dare to Compare: A Gross Out Game for Good Nutrition which proves HANDS DOWN that there is a direct Media-Mind-Body link.

    We ‘dare’ kids dare to become advertisers. They name healthy products. Design their own labels. Come up with product and nutrient claims.By the end they know exactly how they’re being targeted and sold… Food packaging. Shelf position. Branding gimmicks. Jingles. Celebrities. Athletes. All the persuasive ‘why to buys’ that food marketers use.

    Our “living lab” at Allen School can now deconstruct these media messages, & turn them inside out! I DARE the food study folks to track that retention against their data…

    I think they’d be amazed what the power of defiance can do when kids feel they’re being persuasively ‘baited.’

    It’s imperative that media literacy is factored into this equation!

  3. Sounds like a good idea Amy. Keep up the good work!

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