You’re trying to shield your children from junk food advertising. Limiting TV exposure, explaining why it’s important to eat real food, teaching them to prepare simple dishes. But then you take your kids to the movies. And interwoven into the narrative are all those products and fast food establishments you’re trying so hard to stay away from. Sound familiar?
According to a new study published in Pediatrics, product placement has become a prevalent advertising form in movies and TV shows. Study author, Dr. Lisa A. Sutherland, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Dartmouth Medical School, decided to research this subject after a night at the movies with her son a few years ago. Here’s what her team learned:
Sutherland and her colleagues analyzed the top 20 films at the box office in each year from 1996 to 2005. Researchers watched each film and noted brand-name references to food and beverage products plus retail food establishments, such as fast-food restaurants.
Of the 200 movies, 69 percent — 138 — featured at least one food, beverage or retail establishment…
Candy products (26 percent) and salty snacks (21 percent) were the most common foods seen in the movies, and sugary soft drinks made up three-quarters of the beverages mentioned. Fast-food restaurants, meanwhile, accounted for two-thirds of the retail establishment mentions.
McDonald’s topped the references to food establishments with 13.1 percent of them, while Pepsi and Coca-Cola were nearly equal (at about 35 percent each) at the top of the list of beverage companies whose products appeared in the movies. Pepsi food products also topped the list of brand-name food references.
A few comments:
1. Where can one sign up to analyze the next batch of movies? Seems like a great job, watching movies all day.
2. But seriously, as someone who worked in the consumer electronics industry in the past, I can tell you that from a manufacturer perspective, placement in a motion picture is considered the Oscar of product promotion. It’s a win-win for Hollywood and for the brands. Unfortunately the largest advertising budgets will always be for the Mc-junk foods of the world.
3. There is hope though. Since you are watching the movie together with your children, use the drive back home as
an opportunity to teach them how to think critically about the images they see.
What to do at the supermarket:
If your child asks for a product as seen on TV or in a movie, you needn’t automatically say no. The 80/20 rule should work here. If most of the time they eat OK, then a rainbow colored snack here and there isn’t going to bring on Armageddon. If your children are old enough to understand, review the nutrition facts panel and ingredient list together, have them look for alternatives that are more healthful, and empower them by letting them choose something they found and is healthy enough. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.
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