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Food advertising on British children’s television: a content analysis and experimental study with nine-year olds


OBJECTIVES: The nature and significance of food advertising during children’s television was examined in two studies: a content analysis of advertising (Study 1) and an investigation of the impact of food adverts on the self-perception of overweight children (Study 2).

PARTICIPANTS: Study 1 monitored 91 h of children’s broadcasting on four terrestrial and satellite stations in the UK. In Study 2, 103 children aged 9.75 y viewed two videotaped cartoons containing either food or non-food product advertisements.

MEASURES: Study 1 used a detailed record of advertisement style and content. Study 2 included a self-report measure of current state, and measures of self-esteem, dietary restraint, body weight and height.

RESULTS: Half of the 828 adverts were for food products, 60% of which were for breakfast cereals and confectionery/snacks. Food advertisements used significantly more animation, stories, humour and the promotion of fun/happiness/mood alteration. In Study 2, significant interactions between advertisement type and overweight were observed on ratings of perceived health and appetite for sweets.

CONCLUSION: While small changes are apparent, advertisements during children’s television are still dominated by those for foods of questionable nutritional value, in a manner designed to engage attention and emotional response. That overweight children appeared more influenced by their personal enhancement message, suggests the value of further work identifying who is most influenced and by what features of advertising.

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Correspondence to AJ Hill.

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  • Food advertisements
  • television
  • children
  • content analysis
  • overweight
  • self-esteem
  • self-perception

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