Last week, the Australian Food and Grocery Council released a report claiming that advertisements for high fat, sugar and salt foods (HFSS) aimed at children now only make up a very small portion of all food and beverage advertisements on children’s TV in Australia.

The Council’s statement said: “The study found just 2.4 per cent of all HFSS food and beverage adverts on children’s TV between March to May 2010 targeted children aged under the age of 12, according to data sourced from Commercial Monitors, an Australian advertising information service.”

However, Wendy Watson from the 
Junkbusters Team at 
Cancer Council NSW, has quite a different take on the findings.

Report highlights problems of junk food marketing to kids

Wendy Watson writes:

The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) seem to have shot themselves in the foot by releasing a report extolling the successes of their so called Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative (RCMI).

The report has found that 21% of all food ads in children’s programs were for high fat, sugar and salt foods (HFSS).

This supports what we have been saying- self-regulatory codes such as the Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative do not work – children are still being exposed to junk food advertising. (Read report here.)

The report also found that companies who had signed up to the voluntary code were still contributing to the number of the advertisements for junk food in children’s programs. 61% of the junk food ads were by signatory companies who have promoted themselves as not advertising unhealthy food and beverage products to children under 12.

To arrive at the leading statistic in their media release of 2.4% of all HFSS food and beverage adverts on children’s TV targeted children under the age of 12, the report excludes many advertisements claiming they were not directed to children even though they were shown in children’s programs. This is an arbitrary ruling and open to varying interpretations.

In 2010 advertisers creatively defended their unhealthy food ads as not directed to children because they were:

“to capture a moment of play between a busy Dad and his child”

“ a doll… a timeless childhood object which adults could relate with their childhood”

The report also found that only 16 of the 44 companies advertising food and beverages in children’s programs are signatories to the RCMI.

This low participation rate contributes to the ineffectiveness of voluntary regulations.
The report only captures the number of different advertisements and not the frequency. Repeated exposure to ads will increase their influence on children.

It only looked at programs where children are more than 50% of the audience. This avoids many high rating programs in the 6pm-9pm timeslot which often have a large children’s audience.

Note: this report excludes advertising by fast food restaurants as they are covered by different self-regulations.

Let us know of any examples you find of junk food marketing to kids.

***

Meanwhile… Junkbusters has uncovered another breach of the RCMI

Despite being a signatory to The Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative (RCMI), Nestle has been caught out showing a commercial for Drumstick Ice Cream during children’s program My friend Tigger and Pooh.

This recent breach follows on from a similar breach by Nestle in October when the Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) upheld a complaint regarding the Smarties’ commercial which was shown during children’s movies.


• Croakey thanks the Junkbusters team for allowing this cross posting.

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Peter Fray
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