Exposure, Power and Impact of Food Marketing on Children: Evidence Supports Strong Restrictions

Boyland, Emma and Tatlow-Golden, Mimi (2017). Exposure, Power and Impact of Food Marketing on Children: Evidence Supports Strong Restrictions. European Journal of Risk and Regulation, 8 pp. 224–236.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/err.2017.21


Restricting food marketing to children is a key policy issue across Europe. Numerous regulatory and self-regulatory approaches exist, but evidence suggests that sustained reductions in food marketing exposure, power or impact have not been consistently achieved by any such action to date. This article provides a narrative review of the current literature, focusing on whether, how and to what extent children in Europe are affected by marketing (particularly for unhealthy foods) across both traditional broadcast and non- broadcast (digital) media. The evidence indicates that food marketing remains widespread and influential, and that new techniques employed in digital media can increase its power and reach. Despite the research challenges associated with understanding the nature and extent of children’s exposure via personalised, targeted digital media marketing, emerging data indicate that strong policy action here is appropriate and warranted, as it is for television. This article seeks to set the context for the rest of this special issue. The WHO Set of Recommendations on the Marketing of Foods and Non-alcoholic beverages to Children1 argue that the effectiveness of marketing (i.e. the impact it has) depends upon both the level of exposure to marketing (the frequency and reach of promotions) and the power of that marketing to influence behaviour (the creative content of the marketing message, including the design, execution and use of persuasive techniques). That framework will be applied here to present the extant evidence base to support strong marketing restrictions, and highlight evidence gaps that may be impeding policy progress.

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