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Can counter-advertising reduce pre-adolescent children's susceptibility to front-of-package promotions on unhealthy foods?: Experimental research

Journal Article


Abstract


  • This study aimed to test whether counter-advertisements (i.e. messages contesting industry marketing) make pre-adolescent children less susceptible to the influence of food promotions. Since children have lower media literacy levels due to their immature cognitive abilities, specific research questions explored were: (1) whether the effectiveness of counter-ads is contingent on children having understood them; and (2) whether counter-ads may be detrimental when they are misinterpreted. A between-subjects experimental design using a web-based methodology was employed. 1351 grade 5-6 students (mean age 11 years) from schools located in metropolitan Melbourne, Australia participated. Participants were randomly shown an animated web banner advertisement (counter-ad challenging front-of-package promotion or control ad) and a pair of food packages from the same product category comprising an unhealthy product featuring a front-of-package promotion (nutrient content claim or sports celebrity endorsement) and a healthier control pack without a front-of-package promotion. Responses to the assigned advertisement, choice of product (healthy versusunhealthy) and ratings of the unhealthy product and front-of-package promotion on various nutritional and image-related attributes were recorded for each child. Sixty-six percent of children who viewed a counter-ad understood its main message. These children rated the front-of-package promotion as less believable and rated the unhealthy product bearing the front-of-package promotion as less healthy compared to the control group. However, children who misunderstood the counter-ad rated the unhealthy product bearing a front-of-package promotion as more healthy and rated the front-of-package promotion more favourably than those who correctly understood the counter-ad. Counter-advertising may have unintended consequences when misunderstood. If public health organizations or government pursue counter-advertising as a strategy to reduce the negative influence of unhealthy food marketing among children, caution is needed in designing counter-ads to guard against possible contradictory effects. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.

Authors


  •   Dixon, Helen (external author)
  •   Scully, Maree (external author)
  •   Kelly, Bridget
  •   Chapman, Kathy (external author)
  •   Dr Melanie Wakefield, Melanie (external author)

Publication Date


  • 2014

Citation


  • Dixon, H., Scully, M., Kelly, B., Chapman, K. & Wakefield, M. (2014). Can counter-advertising reduce pre-adolescent children's susceptibility to front-of-package promotions on unhealthy foods?: Experimental research. Social Science and Medicine, 116 211-219.

Scopus Eid


  • 2-s2.0-84905041170

Ro Metadata Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/sspapers/1130

Has Global Citation Frequency


Number Of Pages


  • 8

Start Page


  • 211

End Page


  • 219

Volume


  • 116

Place Of Publication


  • United Kingdom

Abstract


  • This study aimed to test whether counter-advertisements (i.e. messages contesting industry marketing) make pre-adolescent children less susceptible to the influence of food promotions. Since children have lower media literacy levels due to their immature cognitive abilities, specific research questions explored were: (1) whether the effectiveness of counter-ads is contingent on children having understood them; and (2) whether counter-ads may be detrimental when they are misinterpreted. A between-subjects experimental design using a web-based methodology was employed. 1351 grade 5-6 students (mean age 11 years) from schools located in metropolitan Melbourne, Australia participated. Participants were randomly shown an animated web banner advertisement (counter-ad challenging front-of-package promotion or control ad) and a pair of food packages from the same product category comprising an unhealthy product featuring a front-of-package promotion (nutrient content claim or sports celebrity endorsement) and a healthier control pack without a front-of-package promotion. Responses to the assigned advertisement, choice of product (healthy versusunhealthy) and ratings of the unhealthy product and front-of-package promotion on various nutritional and image-related attributes were recorded for each child. Sixty-six percent of children who viewed a counter-ad understood its main message. These children rated the front-of-package promotion as less believable and rated the unhealthy product bearing the front-of-package promotion as less healthy compared to the control group. However, children who misunderstood the counter-ad rated the unhealthy product bearing a front-of-package promotion as more healthy and rated the front-of-package promotion more favourably than those who correctly understood the counter-ad. Counter-advertising may have unintended consequences when misunderstood. If public health organizations or government pursue counter-advertising as a strategy to reduce the negative influence of unhealthy food marketing among children, caution is needed in designing counter-ads to guard against possible contradictory effects. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.

Authors


  •   Dixon, Helen (external author)
  •   Scully, Maree (external author)
  •   Kelly, Bridget
  •   Chapman, Kathy (external author)
  •   Dr Melanie Wakefield, Melanie (external author)

Publication Date


  • 2014

Citation


  • Dixon, H., Scully, M., Kelly, B., Chapman, K. & Wakefield, M. (2014). Can counter-advertising reduce pre-adolescent children's susceptibility to front-of-package promotions on unhealthy foods?: Experimental research. Social Science and Medicine, 116 211-219.

Scopus Eid


  • 2-s2.0-84905041170

Ro Metadata Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/sspapers/1130

Has Global Citation Frequency


Number Of Pages


  • 8

Start Page


  • 211

End Page


  • 219

Volume


  • 116

Place Of Publication


  • United Kingdom