Junk Food Banned in TV Ads Appears in Movies and Shows

August 16, 2011

Are product placements subliminally leading us to eat and drink more? A new Yale study believes this might be the case in children.

Advertising to kids has taken a major hit recently with new standards and many companies simply shifting their ads away from kids, at least on TV.  Brought to light by a new Yale University study, junk food marketers have done little more than shift their strategies.

When you sit down to watch a movie or TV show with your kids, did you happen to notice the cereal or soda the actors were eating or drinking? You can believe your eyes, because those companies that have previously pledged not to market “junk foods and drinks” to kids in the form of TV commercials have turned to product placements, according to the study. As subtle as the messages may be, the influence is strong. 
Yale researchers analyzed Nielsen data and found that 35,000 brand placements for food, drink and restaurant brands had appeared on prime time television in 2008, and that kids see about 14 traditional ads for food and beverages every day on TV compared to one product placement. According to the study, food and drink advertising on TV is a big business adding up to about $745 million each year. On top of that, more than half of the money is spent trying to reach kids younger than 12.
One of America’s most popular shows, American Idol, boasted the “most viewed brand,” Coca-Cola; kids and adults viewed five times as many product placements as they did traditional, paid TV commercials for Coca-Cola products. To put some numbers to it,  71 percent of product placement ads seen by two to 11 year-olds were for Coke. The brand also accounted for 60 percent of the product placements viewed by adults. Subtle, subliminal cues are sure to have an affect. 
Currently, about one-third of children in the United States are overweight or obese. Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages and other processed snack foods puts kids at greater risk for obesity, long-term health problems like diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and long term ingrained habits that are very difficult to change. Next on the agenda will surely be new rules on product placements as well.
The study is set to run in the September issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine