FTC finds changes in children’s advertising exposure


Children are seeing more ads overall, but less advertising minutes, according to a Federal Trade Commission study comparing results of studies conducted with 1977 and 2004 data samples from Nielsen Media Research/Nielsen Monitor-Plus. Also, although children are seeing more ads overall, they are actually seeing less paid advertisements. That's because program outlets are devoting a much larger percentage of the time between the entertainment promoting their other shows.

Here are some key numbers: Children 2-11 saw 19.7K paid ads and 21.9K total ads in 1977, compared to 2004 totals of 18.3K paid ads (a decrease of 7%) and 25.6K total ads (a 17% increase).

Thanks to shorter spot lengths in today's environment, total advertising minutes seen dropped 2% over the period, for the paid category the drop was an even more significant 19%. In the critical food advertisement category, a hot topic this year in Washington, children were found to have seen 6.1K in 1977 and FTC thinks the current total is down about 9%. Children's cable channels account for a large portion of the ads seen, whereas the cable industry was just warming up back in 1977. FTC does not say if there is a link between food advertising and childhood obesity. It does say that if indeed there is a link, it is not evident in the results of this study, which shows that the exposure of children is equal to or down slightly from 1977 levels.

RBR observation: Our take is that the obesity problem is complex – any attempt to try to pin it on any one culprit can be expected to overlook many other contributing factors and thus doom the search for a remedy to failure. Broadcasters and food advertisers would do well to do what they can well to contribute to a nation of healthy children, but they should also insist that their contributions are just one portion of a much bigger picture.