Paradoxical Promotions: Age Differences in Children's Responses to Food Advertising Triggering Multiple Health Schemas
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThe present study investigated whether exposing children to a television advertisement for a sugar-laden cereal that depicts physical activities influences their perceptions of the promoted food as healthy and appealing differently than exposure to an advertisement for the same product without the depiction of physical activities. Differences in the impact each advertisement had on children's attitudes toward and intentions to exercise were also examined. In addition to testing the straightforward effect of advertising exposure, this study explored the potential for age differences to lead to differing interpretations of advertising messages. A 2 (advertising condition) X 2 (age group) experimental design was employed. Participants were randomly assigned to view an advertisement for Frosted Flakes cereal that either did or did not depict physical activities. They were then offered three snack options, including Frosted Flakes, and asked a series of questions pertaining to their perceptions of the advertised cereal, the depicted physical activities, and more general forms of exercise. Exposure to advertising promoting an unhealthy food alongside portrayals of physical activity had an immediate strengthening effect on children's perceptions of the food's healthfulness. Likewise, younger children held more positive attitudes toward the promoted food when they viewed an advertisement associating it with physical activities. However, children's attitudes toward and intentions to engage in any form of exercise did not differ as a result of the advertisement they had viewed, regardless of the child's age. These findings help to explain prior research showing that children's exposure to food advertising is related to nutritional misperceptions. They are consistent with a growing body of research revealing that children respond favorably to food advertisements that associate a product with healthfulness. These findings contrast with food companies' assertions that promoting physical activity in their marketing is encouraging children to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Degree ProgramGraduate College