Junk food product placements replacing ads?


That’s what a Yale University study released on 8/3 claims. While a number of major food and beverage companies have been trying to limit their children’s advertising to healthy options in a voluntary effort to head off government regulation, they may be turning to product placement on television shows instead of traditional ads to target young viewers.

“It is a very subtle message that kids aren’t likely to get,” said Jennifer Harris, a co-author of the study and director of marketing initiatives at Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. “It is even more difficult for younger children to understand this is advertising and that it is persuading them to do something that isn’t the best thing for them.”

The study looked to discover how many product placements appear on primetime TV and also determine how many of those that kids actually see. It analyzed Nielsen media data from 2008 and found some 35,000 brand placements had appeared on prime-time television that year. Kids tend to see about 14 traditional ads for food and beverages each day on television compared to one of these product placements, it said.

But children don’t yet have the cognitive ability to understand that the popular soda, candy and snack brands they see on prime-time shows are a means of advertising.

Harris said Coca-Cola product placements on American Idol was the most viewed brand. Children saw five times as many product placements as they did traditional, paid television commercials for Coca-Cola products.

The study will appear in the September issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.