Implications of digital food and beverage marketing to children and adolescents – an introduction

Until recently, much of the research on the relationship between food marketing and the youth obesity crisis has been focused on television. To provide insight into how food marketing has changed, we teamed up with the National Policy & Legal Analysis Network to Prevent Childhood Obesity (NPLAN) to produce a series of memos that explore the new digital marketing landscape and its implications. Download the series using the links below:

Background and context for the series.

Opportunities for addressing interactive food & beverage marketing to youth
Digital marketing is distinctly different from traditional advertising. This paper discusses what sets it apart, examines recent trends that are shaping the growth of interactive food marketing, and suggests opportunities to protect kids and teens from harmful ads.

Recent federal regulatory developments concerning food and beverage marketing to children and adolescents
Since the 1970s, the amount and variety of marketing to children has increased dramatically. This memo, part of a 9-part series, explains why the regulations surrounding food and beverage marketing need to change and explores what those regulations should look like.

Changing the rules of the game: Implicit persuasion and interactive children’s marketing
Young people don’t understand the persuasive intent of advertising the way adults do. So is it really fair to market to them? This memo discusses the ethics of marketing to kids in today’s digital world and highlights the inability of current regulations to protect young people from harmful marketing strategies.

Research on child development: Implications for how children understand and cope with digital marketing
Children today are confronted by a bewildering array of marketing practices. These practices are constantly evolving, increasingly complex, and often subtle in their implementation.

Adolescents’ psychological & neurobiological development: Implications for digital marketing
Teens spend a substantial amount of time on the Internet and social media, where they are exposed extensively to digital marketing. This memo presents research evidence that adolescents may require special protection from such marketing.

African American & hispanic youth vulnerability to target marketing: Implications for understanding the effects of digital marketing
Overweight and obesity rates are significantly higher for African-American and Latino children and teens compared to their white counterparts. Yet largely missing from discussions about the role of food and beverage marketing in the obesity epidemic is target marketing to ethnic minority youth. This memo discusses factors that may make youth of color more vulnerable to target marketing.

Notice and choice: Implications for digital marketing to youth
The main way that consumer privacy is protected is through an approach known as “notice and choice.” This means that companies must notify consumers of their privacy practices, which gives consumers the illusion of having a choice over how their private information gets shared. The trouble is, companies get to choose what promises they make in their privacy policies and broken promises often go without penalty.

The FTC’s role in privacy protection: Implications for food & beverage marketing
One of the roles of the FTC is to guard against “unfair and deceptive acts or practices.” It also enforces the promises businesses make in their privacy policies but has failed to take a proactive role in shaping the substance of those policies, which is precisely what it must do to protect young consumers from harmful food and beverage industry practices.