*This is a guest blog post by Karimen León-Flández, MD, MPH, PhD. Karimen is the lead author of a recently published IJPH paper on marketing techniques in television advertisements of food and drinks directed at children in Spain. She is currently working at GSK Spain as Scientific Advisor in Paediatric Vaccines.
Food advertising in TV continues to be a threat for controlling weight problems in Spanish children. What can we do?
After finishing my medical degree, I always knew I wanted to dedicate myself to work for the well-being and health of children. That is how I found “Preventive Medicine and Public Health”. This specialty, commonly known as the “great unknown” go beyond traditional medicine that treat sick patients and cure diseases, as you investigate and intervene mostly on healthy populations in order to prevent disease. This could really impact children’s health for the better. In my case, it was the perfect pathway to follow!
Food advertising directed at children is a topic that I was passionate about from the beginning, due to its impact on childhood obesity and weight problems. Today I feel proud and happy to be able to share with readers some of the key findings of our study.
This paper, provides a comprehensive analysis of marketing techniques used in TV food advertising aimed at children, including the latest integrated TV-Internet marketing strategies. We recorded advertisements of food and drinks (AFDs) from 7 days a week on five Spanish TV channels with the highest child-audience ratings, from January to April 2012. Primary persuasive appeal used to draw children´s attention, persuasive, nutritional and Internet marketing techniques, among other AFDs characteristics were collected. Nutritional quality was also assessed, using two classification systems (International Food Based Coding System and the UK Nutrient Profiling Model). Our findings, showed that marketing techniques are used extensively to promote food and drinks products in television. Sadly, most products using these techniques were unhealthy.
For sure, we agree that it is fundamental to protect children, and provide them a healthy environment where they can grow and develop optimally. Nevertheless, food marketing advertised in Spanish TV channels is an important barrier to accomplish this purpose.
So what can we do?
In Spain, stronger leadership is required from governmental institutions to ensure the effectiveness of actual policies regulating food advertising directed at children. This includes to have a nutrient profiling model to restrict exposure to unhealthy products or a ban on all food advertising for children under 12 years old.