‘Harmful advertising’ heavily outweighs children’s exposure to branding, study finds

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A new study has found children are exposed to 554 brands per 10 hour day - or nearly a brand per minute, much of it advertising unhealthy products. (File photo)

Annie Spratt/Unsplash

A new study has found children are exposed to 554 brands per 10 hour day – or nearly a brand per minute, much of it advertising unhealthy products. (File photo)

Kiwi children are being exposed to a brand almost every minute, research has found – a “concerning” amount of which is harmful advertising.

In a study by the University of Otago, 168 children aged 11 to 13 were given wearable, automatic cameras to provide an insight of their daily exposure to marketing over four full days between June 2014 and June 2015.

Data from a random sample of 90 children found they were exposed to 554 brands per 10-hour day, amounting to nearly a brand a minute, said associate professor Leah Watkins, who co-led the study.

The most pervasive marketing brands typically sold a range of products across different types of category – children were exposed to Nike, for instance on average 20 times a day.

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Children were also exposed to more than twice as many harmful commodities as core food and social marketing messages a day.

The majority of the exposures to brands occurred in school (43 per cent), at home (30 per cent), and in-store (12 per cent), most commonly on brand labels (46 per cent), product packaging (22 per cent) and commercial signage (13 per cent).

Watkins said children were bombarded with messages about consumption, and said she found the relative number of messages for unhealthy products in comparison to healthy food messages concerning.

The findings also uncovered links between socio-economic status and exposure to harmful advertising, she said.

Associate professor Leah Watkins, who co-led the University of Otago study, says the findings are concerning.

Supplied

Associate professor Leah Watkins, who co-led the University of Otago study, says the findings are concerning.

“This is alarming given the high rates of obesity, alcohol, and gambling harm in socio-economically deprived neighbourhoods.”

Dairies and bottle stores were more common in lower economic neighbourhoods and brand exposure in homes also varied between economic groups, Watkins said.

“That is concerning because some of the public health issues such as obesity that we’re concerned about in those populations are actually the populations who are being exposed to more of it.

“It suggests marketing messages may accentuate inequities and place further pressure on those who are already disadvantaged.”

The results raised concerns about how marketing can promote products directly harmful to public health, but also its role in encouraging overconsumption, she said.

“One of the major threats to planetary health is overconsumption, and the current and continued increases in consumption are unsustainable.”

Youth Hub Trust chairwoman and GP Dame Sue Bagshaw said young people were susceptible to advertising and a consumerist attitude set early on was “very hard to shake”.

Bagshaw said the effects on mental and physical health were also concerning, particularly when targeted at vulnerable communities, and better regulation was needed for the advertising of fast food, sugary drinks and alcohol.

She believed schools should be “advert-free spaces”.

Youth Hub Trust chairwoman and GP Dame Sue Bagshaw says the effects of advertising exposure on mental and physical health are concerning, particularly when targeted at vulnerable communities.

Joseph Johnson/Stuff

Youth Hub Trust chairwoman and GP Dame Sue Bagshaw says the effects of advertising exposure on mental and physical health are concerning, particularly when targeted at vulnerable communities.

Watkins pointed to the World Health Organisation, which said more thought should be given to how much advertising there is and whether there should be public spaces that are free of it.

“Arguably school should be one of those, so it was concerning how much of that exposure was happening at school,” she said.

“We need to think about the amount of it full stop and then specifically we do need to look at some of the product categories and how they are being targeted to children and where and how we might develop policy around that.”

The researchers plan to further investigate children’s exposure to marketing in schools.

Watkins said the study also underestimated the exposure of advertisements through electronic devices, which weren’t always captured through the cameras.

A pilot app was being developed to track children’s online exposure which was less regulated than traditional formats of advertisement.



Read More: ‘Harmful advertising’ heavily outweighs children’s exposure to branding, study finds

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