Children’s Food Ads Are Actually Targeting Parents Nearly Half the Time, Report Finds

A study found that nearly half of commercials for children’s food products were actually geared toward parents
Children’s Food Ads Are Actually Targeting Parents Nearly Half the Time, Report Finds


Children’s cereals, yogurts, and sugary beverages received the most air time, and focused considerably on appealing to parents.

Television ads for children’s food and drink products often target parents, according to a new study which looked at a year’s worth (2012 to 2013) of television ads promoting 51 youth-oriented items.

The study, published this month in the Pediatrics journal, found that 49 percent of those products were advertised directly to parents, using, among other strategies, “emotional appeals related to family bonding and love.”

Advertisements targeting parents also more often focused on nutrition and health, while child-directed advertisements focused on overall taste and appeal. Interestingly, researchers found that the products which received the most air time during this period were ready-to-eat cereals, sugar-sweetened beverages, and children’s yogurt, “and the proportion of total advertisement airtime for those products devoted to parents was 24.4percent, 72.8 percent, and 25.8 percent, respectively.”

Although it may not come as a surprise that companies made sure to target members of the household who control the purse strings, these strategies deserved more investigation as the methods by which companies often market junk food and face increasing scrutiny.


Given that these “nutritionally questionable foods,” especially sugar-sweetened beverages, employ parent-directed marketing, researchers noted that further studies should be conducted to see whether such advertisements “ultimately undermine the ability of parents” to make educated decisions about their children’s dietary habits.