‘I saw Santa drinking soda!’ Advertising and children's food preferences

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Abstract

Background

The influence of advertising on children's food preferences is well documented in the research literature. In this study we aim to examine the ways in which food advertising propels children's consumer behaviour and to investigate how food advertising affects the frequency of unhealthy food consumption.

Methods

Data were drawn from a sample of elementary school children in the region of Thessaly (Greece). Three scales were used to measure children's lifestyle patterns, food consumption frequencies, and their response to advertising. Univariate and inferential statistics were used to answer the research questions.

Results

The analysis revealed that a significant proportion of children (47.4%) frequently consume unhealthy foods. Children who have little understanding of the persuasive intent of advertising rate advertised foods as healthier and more nutritious. The frequency of unhealthy food consumption is influenced by the entertaining dimension of advertising and the level of the motivational arousal after children's exposure to food advertisements.

Conclusions

Food advertising impels children's consumer behaviour through four different modes. First, advertising engenders expectations, which raise purchase motivation. Second, the purchase of advertised foods is accompanied by positive feelings (happiness, satisfaction). Third, the entertaining dimension of advertising generates pleasant mood, which positively predisposes the evaluation of advertised foods. Fourth, children do not always possess the ability to recognize the persuasive nature of advertising.

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