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Date of Award

2008

Document Type

Thesis - Pacific Access Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Alan Ray

First Committee Member

Carol Ann Hackley

Second Committee Member

Qingwen Dong

Abstract

Food advertising aimed at children in America has been proven to directly impact food preferences, eating behavior and brand loyalty of youth (Story & French, 2004). The purpose of this study was to evaluate the content of television commercials that occurred during children's programming on the popular children's network Nickelodeon. This study examined the frequency, nutritional content and overall advertising techniques associated with food, beverage and restaurant commercials. It also assessed the degree to which children are being exposed to the promotion of unhealthy food, beverage restaurant commercials.

This study examined commercials that aired on the Nickelodeon Network between Monday, August 11 through Friday, August 15, 2008 between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. on the Comcast Cable System in Stockton, California. The programming was recorded on a VHS tape and then later reviewed and analyzed. Each commercial was examined in the following areas: nutritional content; slogan; branded characters; premium; link to a movie and healthy message.

This study demonstrated that 40.65% of the commercials airing between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. on the Nickelodeon television network are for food, beverage and/or restaurants. Twenty-six percent of food, beverage and restaurant commercials met or exceeded the daily recommended levels of fat, added sugars, and sodium, and fell short of providing essential nutrients as outlined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) (United States Department of Agriculture, 2008).

The results of this study indicate that a considerable amount of food commercials targeting children as consumers. Government regulation seems unlikely due to the First Amendment, rights to free speech. This study points to several suggestions for advertisers, advocates, Children's Advertising Review Unit (CARU) teachers and parents to address the issue of advertising to children. Some of the suggestions include stricter self-regulation, education and parental responsibility.

Pages

51

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