Advertisements are supposed to get consumers interested in – and even feel certain emotions for – products they might otherwise ignore. It’s what ads were invented to do, and it’s what ad men get paid the big bucks for. Given that, it should come as a shock to no one to find out that they are working. But according to a new study from the American Academy of Pediatrics, released yesterday at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Boston, they may be working a little too well – according to the study, the children that can recognize brands from advertisements tend to also be the children who are overweight.
The study surveyed a sample population of 3,342 young people between the ages of 15 and 23, comparing statistics like “height, weight, age, gender, race, socioeconomic status, exercise, consumption of soda or sweet drinks, frequency of eating at quick-service restaurants, how many hours they watched TV each day, and whether they snacked while watching TV” against the youths’ ability to identify still images culled from fast food TV ads and digitally altered to have the brand names removed. The report states that the young people who recognized the ads were twice as likely to be obese, suggesting that such familiarity can be strongly associated with childhood obesity.
RELATED STORIES FROM WDM CONTENT NETWORK
- Food Franchises Quickly Adopting Social Media
- The Nation's New Pepper Jack Swing
- From Chain to Franchise: One Year In
- CLICK HERE TO READ THE LATEST EDITION OF FOOD & DRINK DIGITAL
“A similar association with obesity was not found for familiarity with televised alcohol ads, suggesting that the relationship was specific to fast-food advertising content,” said lead author Auden C. McClure, MD, MPH, FAAP, assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, in a press release following the announcement of the study. “After accounting for overall TV time, TV ad familiarity was still linked with obesity suggesting that this finding is not simply due to increased sedentary time or an effect of TV programming.”
But the study also noted that any conclusions to be drawn are not as simple as thinking that fast food ad recognition equates to eating at fast food restaurants more often. “The relation between fast-food marketing and obesity is not simply that it prompts more quick-serve restaurant visits,” added study co-author James D. Sargent, MD, FAAP, professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth. Instead, “individuals who are more familiar with these ads may have food consumption patterns that include many types of high-calorie food brands, or they may be especially sensitive to visual cues to eat while watching TV. More research is necessary to determine how fast-food ad familiarity is linked to obesity,” he added.
“Given the broad exposure of youth to advertising, the more we know about how media and marketing affect young people, the better equipped we are as pediatricians and parents to guide them in making healthy diet choices,” Dr. McClure concluded.