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    Are Your Kids Overweight? Blame It On Product Placement
    By News Staff | February 15th 2010 12:00 AM | 6 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    It seems that everything except the causes of childhood obesity receive blame for childhood obesity. While common sense and plenty of research indicate that parents and social setting are the primary influences on children's eating habits, the effort to pin the problem on food manufactures never ends. Recently, the authors of a study in Pediatrics continued the charade by suggesting that product placement in movies may bear some of the responsibility for the expanding waistlines of America's Children.

     Did the researchers successfully identify product placement in movies as a cause of childhood obesity? No. But they did discover that most of the "brand placements" for food, beverage, and food retail establishments that are frequently portrayed in movies are for energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods or product lines. I guess that's close enough.

    Of the 200 movies analyzed, the teams results revealed that 138 contained at least 1 food, beverage, or food retail establishment brand. Movies that carried a PG-13 or R rating were much more likely to contain brand placements than movies in other rating categories.

    In total, the study identified 1180 brand placements, including 427 food, 425 beverage, and 328 food retail establishment brand placements. Sugar sweetened beverages were the most prevalent beverage brands (76%) Candy/confections (26%) and salty snacks (21%) were the most prevalent food brands, and fast food composed two thirds of the food retail establishment brand placements. The study also revealed that six companies accounted for 45 percent of all brand placements and included PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Nestle USA, McDonald's, Dr. Pepper/Snapple Group and Burger King.

    The authors suggest that advertising of this kind is troubling because it appears in movies that are aimed at children. By pointing to a number of studies  that focused on other health-related behaviors in movies, they also say it is well established that children who view these risky behaviors in movies are more likely to engage in the behaviors themselves.

    But again, the problem with this research as with so much before it is that it proves absolutely nothing about the relationship between advertising and children's eating habits. Sure, movies contain a lot of advertising for candy, salty snacks, and soda. So what? Previous studies have gone one step further by drawing a correlation between advertising and the unhealthy behavior (whether it be smoking, drinking, or overeating) but never prove that seeing a coke can or a cigarette on the screen motivates kids to engage in the behavior. In order to demonstrate that link, experimental studies actually have to be conducted.

    The authors of the current study conclude that children are susceptible to outside influences (product placement being one) that may contribute to unhealthy lifestyle choices. They say that "food-product placement in movies is one of many factors, but it is one that may be far more influential than previously realized and perhaps the least well understood."

    So while everyone is trying to the ratchet up the health hazards posed by advertising in movies, is it possible that the actual causes of childhood obesity are being ignored? Shaming evil corporations for their pernicious advertising may seem sexy, but what about the parents who constantly feed their kids unhealthy food? That lack of parenting is almost certainly more relevant to a child's health, yet it receives much less attention.

    The reality is, people need to take more responsibility for themselves and their children and as a society we need to stop scapegoating things like advertising. Anything else is a complete waste of time.




    Citation: Sutherland et al., ''Prevalence of Food and Beverage Brands in Movies: 1996–2005', Pediatrics, February 2010; doi:10.1542/peds.2009-0857




     

    Comments

    Gerhard Adam
    The reality is, people need to take more responsibility for themselves and their children and as a society we need to stop scapegoating things like advertising.
    When they can take that responsibility.  However, it is troublesome when one sees the fast food options and soda machines in school cafeterias.  If parents are to be responsible (which they should be), then corporate interests need to be kept away from direct marketing practices where the parents cannot participate (such as inside schools).
    Mundus vult decipi
    CJE
    Blaming consumption of a particular food is wrongheaded, in my opinion. Banning soda and french fries from school cafeterias will do absolutely nothing unless people make fundamental lifestyle changes.

    Gerhard Adam
    I have to disagree.  Corporations should not have the arbitrary right to bombard kids with their promotions and advertisements simply because it might be profitable for them to do so.  Admittedly, people do have to take responsibility for their own choices, but when it comes to kids, then adult leadership is necessary (and not corporate leadership).

    I disagree with the notion that anything business chooses to do must be acceptable while problems are always personal responsibilities.  In many cases, it becomes a situation of where perpetual temptation is placed in someone's path, then at some level the source of that temptation must share some of the blame.

    No one would approve of putting cigarette machines in schools, so let's stop pretending that corporate profiteers are simply innocent bystanders on this issue.
    Mundus vult decipi
    CJE
    Corporations should not have the arbitrary right to bombard kids with their promotions and advertisements simply because it might be profitable for them to do so
    That's why children have those intervening forces known as parents.

    Furthermore, there's nothing addicting about soda and, contrary to claims of some food scolds, advertising is not an overwhelming influence on consumers. So as long as nobody is forced to consume any product or pay attention to advertising for it, I don't buy your temptation argument.

    And there are a lot of differences between a pack of cigarettes and a can of soda. Smoking is obviously harmful and is addicting. That's one of the problems with all the attempts to restrict consumption of food; we have yet to prove that pulling soda, fast food, or anything else out of people's diets will make them healthier.
    Gerhard Adam
    Perhaps I wasn't clear enough.  My point is that the advertising and promotion is wrong when it occurs on school grounds (i.e. cafeteria) and on school property since that is ultimately public property for which the parents do not have the authority to intervene.

    While your argument about cigarettes as being harmful is correct, you'll be hard pressed to make the case that obesity isn't equally, if not potentially more dangerous, to kids.

    That's one of the problems with all the attempts to restrict consumption of food; we have yet to prove that pulling soda, fast food, or anything else out of people's diets will make them healthier.
    Perhaps that's true, but as a parent I should be confident that the schools are not acting as a proxy sales team for corporate products.  That's my beef, is with the intrusion into schools.  I'm not suggesting that McDonald's close its doors or that sodas be outlawed.  I'm simply saying that if parents are responsible (as you've rightfully pointed out), then they also deserve to be supported by those agencies (i.e. schools) that are charged with being proxy parents during school hours.
    So as long as nobody is forced to consume any product or pay attention to advertising for it, I don't buy your temptation argument.
    But effectively they are, when there are few or no alternatives.  Unless the student is permitted to leave the school campus and can freely make such decisions, then having fast food is effectively being "forced" on them since they do not have the choice to go elsewhere.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Each person must take responsibility for themself. It is easy to blame society for our troubles, when in fact we each have a massive say in our destiny. This has to do with everything including eating and exercising. Anyone will lose weight by reading and following the right information; as such, being healthy is a lifestyle, not a diet! There are many good tips on how to achieve permanent weight loss; none of them includes gimmicks, diets, or diet pills. To assist with weight control; keep a daily food journal and every time the urge to snack is felt, first drink a large glass of clear water. It does not hurt to treat yourself with something special once in a while, what is necessary is that you moderate your food portions. Being overweight ******, but after reading a book, I lost 85 pounds! Words can not express how good I feel! This is a comment which I recently received about the book Lose Weight Using Four Easy Steps