A scoping review of outdoor food marketing: exposure, power and impacts on eating behaviour and health

Finlay, Amy; Robinson, Eric; Jones, Andrew; Maden, Michelle; Cerny, Caroline; Muc, Magdalena; Evans, Rebecca; Makin, Harriet and Boyland, Emma (2022). A scoping review of outdoor food marketing: exposure, power and impacts on eating behaviour and health. BMC Public Health, 22, article no. 1431.


There is convincing evidence that unhealthy food marketing is extensive on television and in digital media, uses powerful persuasive techniques, and impacts dietary choices and consumption, particularly in children. It is less clear whether this is also the case for outdoor food marketing. This review (i) identifies common criteria used to define outdoor food marketing, (ii) summarises research methodologies used, (iii) identifies available evidence on the exposure, power (i.e. persuasive creative strategies within marketing) and impact of outdoor food marketing on behaviour and health and (iv) identifies knowledge gaps and directions for future research.

A systematic search was conducted of Medline (Ovid), Scopus, Science Direct, Proquest, PsycINFO, CINAHL, PubMed, the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials and a number of grey literature sources. Titles and abstracts were screened by one researcher. Relevant full texts were independently checked by two researchers against eligibility criteria.

Fifty-three studies were conducted across twenty-one countries. The majority of studies (n = 39) were conducted in high-income countries. All measured the extent of exposure to outdoor food marketing, twelve also assessed power and three measured impact on behavioural or health outcomes. Criteria used to define outdoor food marketing and methodologies adopted were highly variable across studies. Almost a quarter of advertisements across all studies were for food (mean of 22.1%) and the majority of advertised foods were unhealthy (mean of 63%). The evidence on differences in exposure by SES is heterogenous, which makes it difficult to draw conclusions, however the research suggests that ethnic minority groups have a higher likelihood of exposure to food marketing outdoors. The most frequent persuasive creative strategies were premium offers and use of characters. There was limited evidence on the relationship between exposure to outdoor food marketing and eating behaviour or health outcomes.

This review highlights the extent of unhealthy outdoor food marketing globally and the powerful methods used within this marketing. There is a need for consistency in defining and measuring outdoor food marketing to enable comparison across time and place. Future research should attempt to measure direct impacts on behaviour and health.

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