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The Wall Street Journal reports that new studies conducted in the UK suggests that food advertising on television actually does seem to prompt children to eat more.

“In two similar studies,” the Journal reports, “researchers in Liverpool compared the effects of television advertising on the eating habits of 152 kids between the ages of 5 and 11. In both studies, the kids watched 10 ads followed by a cartoon. In one session, the kids saw ads for toys before they watched a video. But in another session, the toy ads were replaced by food advertising commonly aired with children's and family programming. After both viewings, held two weeks apart, the kids were allowed to snack as much as they wanted from a table of low-fat and high-fat snacks, including grapes, cheese-flavored rice cakes, chocolate buttons and potato chips.

“After the 5-to-7-year-old kids saw the food ads, they ended up eating 14% to 17% more calories than after the toy ads, according to a study published this month in the medical journal Appetite. But the changes were even more dramatic among the 9-to-11 year-olds. They ate from 84% to 134% more calories after being exposed to food ads compared with their snack intake after watching toy advertising,”

There is one bit of good news in the research – the compulsion to eat doesn’t seem limited just to fast food or junk food.

“Because most parents can't monitor every ad their child is exposed to, one solution is to simply make sure your child only has access to healthy snacks after watching TV,” the Journal writes. “That way, a post-TV binge won't do much damage. Notably, in the Liverpool studies, kids' consumption of healthy foods, such as grapes and low-fat snacks, also jumped after seeing food ads.”

The release of this research is timely, considering that a group of US food manufacturers are said to be ready to announce voluntary restrictions both on what they market to kids and how their child-oriented food products are formulated – moves that likely are aimed at preventing the government from having mandatory restrictions in these areas.
KC's View:
I have a question. Perhaps a silly question.

If an advertising agency submitted a commercial for a food or beverage product that did not make the viewer – whether an adult or child – either hungry or thirsty, wouldn’t that ad be deemed ineffective? And wouldn’t, in the long run, that ad agency get canned for being incompetent?

I thought these ads were supposed to make viewers hungry or thirsty. I thought that was the whole point.

Why is this such a surprise?