Food and beverage brands that market to children and adolescents on the internet: a content analysis of branded web sites.
OBJECTIVE: To identify food and beverage brand Web sites featuring designated children's areas, assess marketing techniques present on those industry Web sites, and determine nutritional quality of branded food items marketed to children. DESIGN: Systematic content analysis of food and beverage brand Web sites and nutrient analysis of food and beverages advertised on these Web sites. SETTING: The World Wide Web. PARTICIPANTS: One-hundred thirty Internet Web sites of food and beverage brands with top media expenditures based on the America's Top 2000 Brands section of Brandweek magazine's annual "Superbrands" report. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: A standardized content analysis rating form to determine marketing techniques used on the food and beverage brand Web sites. Nutritional analysis of food brands was conducted. RESULTS: Of 130 Web sites analyzed, 48% featured designated children's areas. These Web sites featured a variety of Internet marketing techniques, including advergaming on 85% of the Web sites and interactive programs on 92% of the Web sites. Branded spokescharacters and tie-ins to other products were featured on the majority of the Web sites, as well. Few food brands (13%) with Web sites that market to children met the nutrition criteria set by the National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity. CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: Nearly half of branded Web sites analyzed used designated children's areas to market food and beverages to children, 87% of which were of low nutritional quality. Nutrition professionals should advocate the use of advertising techniques to encourage healthful food choices for children.
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