Jennifer Harris, a senior research scientist and director of marketing initiatives at the Rudd Center and research scientist at UConn’s Center for Health, Intervention, and Prevention. Unlike 30-second advertisements on TV, the videos and top quality games posted on digital media are designing to employ children for an extended timeframe.
Harris, a previous international marketing executive for American Express with a doctorate in public psychology, is accountable for the Rudd Center’s research initiatives to comprehend the extent and impact of children’s exposure to food advertising. She says the tactics companies are employing derive from the latest consumer mindset now.
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At one time, companies used advertising solely to promote what was in their products – showing how good something likes or how healthy it was for you, she says. But recently, companies have been producing ads that are designed to resonate with consumers on the deeper psychological level. The purpose of the ad is to create good feelings; hyping the real product is supplementary.
Coca-Cola, for instance, has launched an advertising campaign called “Open Happiness.” McDonald’s takes a similar approach with its “I’m Loving It” advertising campaign. Creating those types of positive associations is suitable for adults, who have the capability to rationally measure the advertising for what it is and make a choice. Children though, are different.
Most disturbing to Harris is the fact that some companies are stimulating children to spread the term about their products amongst their friends. Add analysts like Harris and other advocates continue steadily to make inroads in the fight to stop companies from advertising harmful products to children. But improvement, admittedly, has been continuous.
In response to open public pressure, companies like McDonald’s, Burger King, Coca-Cola, and General Mills have pledged to self regulate their industry by signing up for the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, or CFBAI. The initiative is designed to shift the mixture of foods promoted to children under 12 to encourage healthier choices. When asked for advice on what parents can do to battle the new digital craze in advertising to children, Harris suggests parents keep all kinds of media out of the bedroom – TV, computers, cell phones, tablets – everything. She also suggests withholding commercial tv from very young children until as late as possible.
Research shows that children as young as two and three are exposure to the same amount of television as six- and seven-year-olds, she says. If the children are watching child-based networks like Nickelodeon Even, the advertising seeps in. She suggests offering young children alternatives like DVDs or public TV without commercials. Exposure to candy ads more than doubled for adolescents and children from 2007 to 2013, per year by children and an additional 535 advertisements for adolescents an increase of 270 advertisements viewed. In 2009 2009, 1 approximately.2 million children ages 6 to 11 visited food company websites that contained games.