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The marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages to children. Setting the research agenda
In 2003 the Hastings report ﬁrst highlighted the role of marketing in inﬂuencing children’s choice. Hastings concluded, on the evidence up to that date, that children in the UK are exposed to extensive food advertising, and that the diet advertised is considerably less healthy than the diet healthcare experts would recommend. Furthermore, the report stated that advertisements do have an effect on children’s preferences, purchasing behaviour and consumption; and that this modiﬁcation of behaviour occurs not only at the brand level (changing the preference between two equivalent products such as potato chips) but more importantly at category level (the child being more likely to choose potato chips per se). Despite being well received by both the academic and health communities, these ﬁndings took a number of years to make a policy impact in the UK.
Contemporaneous reports from North America (e.g. Gantz,
Schwartz, Angelini, & Rideout, 2007; Institute of Medicine, 2005), reviewing largely the same literature base, independently reached very similar conclusions. In the UK, four years after Hastings, regulation was introduced in a phased manner such that by January
2009, television advertising of unhealthy foods and beverages to children during child-speciﬁc programming was to be fully curtailed. Although its scope was limited in terms of both the media and the amount of broadcast time it covered, this was a radical deviation from previous policy in that it explicitly acknowledged the link between marketing activities (such as advertising) and child health. In essence, this triggered policymakers globally to seriously consider restrictions to deal with the growing problem of childhood obesity. Key stakeholders including various nongovernmental organisations, health ministries, and the World
Health Organisation (WHO) collaborated to consider marketing to children in a far wider context. Through work produced by the
European Network on Reducing Marketing Pressure on Children and the International Obesity Taskforce-led initiatives (PolMark
StanMark (http://www.iaso.org/policy/euprojects/stanmarkproject/), the growing body of evidence demonstrating the effects of speciﬁc forms of commercial media on children’s patterns of consumption was reviewed. This was done in the context of the proliferation of marketing possible through new technology and the growth of social media – things taken up avidly by the young generation. In light of this, and informed by many of these considerations, the WHO released its Set of Recommendations on the Marketing of Foods and Non-alcoholic Beverages to Children (http://www. who.int/dietphysicalactivity/marketing-food-to-children/en/). This was to be a tool for national governments to create the necessary voluntary or statutory regulatory frameworks to ensure that marketing to children promoted a far healthier and balanced diet.
0195-6663/$ - see front matter Ó 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2012.12.003 These recommendations should soon be followed by WHO guidance to enable national authorities to assess the impact of introducing such sanctions. Since Hastings, the debate has moved on from looking at traditional broadcast media (i.e. television) and now seeks to address marketing activity as a whole. For instance
TV advertising, although arguably slightly on the decline, often links to interactive websites which in turn persuade the child to promote the brand through social media which is readily accessible through mobile telephony.
As early as 2006, the International Association for the Study of
Obesity released the