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Online games new marketing tool for unhealthy foods
Date:6/3/2010

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) UC Davis public health researchers have found that children, who are already saturated with television messages about unhealthy food choices, are the targets of a new medium used to sell high-fat, high-sugar foods: advergames.

Advergames are an entertaining blend of interactive animation, video content and advertising, exposing children for extended periods of time to online messages that primarily promote corporate branding and products.

The analysis, published in the May issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, leads its authors to recommend increased regulation of food companies that target youth.

"We knew based on our previous research that food advertising on television programming for children is dominated by high-fat quick-service restaurant options and high-sugar cereals and candy," said Diana Cassady, senior author of the study and an associate professor of public health sciences at UC Davis. "At the same time, we noticed a lot of that TV advertising included corporate websites, and we wanted to find out how these sites were being used to communicate about food to kids."

For their current study, Cassady and Jennifer Culp, lead author and training coordinator with the Food Stamp Nutrition Education Program at UC Davis, conducted a detailed content analysis of all restaurant, beverage and food websites advertised on the Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon between August 2006 and March 2007. These networks were selected because of their high volume of website promotion with traditional ads. The researchers' analysis focused on the broadcast timeframes most watched by children: weekday after-school hours and Saturday mornings.

Each site and the pages within those sites were evaluated for strategies used to prolong visits, types and frequency of branding features, and the number and prominence of nutrition and physical activity messages. After assessing 19 websites, 290 w
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Contact: Karen Finney
karen.finney@ucdmc.ucdavis.edu
916-734-9064
University of California - Davis - Health System
Source:Eurekalert

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