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United States: TV commercials for children’s packaged foods and beverages frequently target parents by using themes of nutrition, health and an active lifestyle, according to a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics. The research claims “targeting parents with an approach distinct from that used to target children is likely a useful strategy, the use of nutrition and health appeals for children’s foods may divert attention away from poor nutritional quality”. For their study entitled “Children’s Food and Beverage Promotion on Television to Parents”, researchers from the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth analysed ads for 51 children’s packaged foods and beverages aired on US TV over 1 year (March 2012 to February 2013). The children’s foods and beverages identified in the study are consistent with those promoted to children on TV, based on published Nielsen viewership data, and do not meet nutritional guidelines set by the Interagency Working Group. Specifically, any food or beverage advertised at least once from 8 AM to 1 PM on weekdays on Nickelodeon, NickToons, Disney XD, and Cartoon Network was included. The target audience of ads was defined as children or parents based on the content, where parent-directed ads included emotional appeals related to family bonding and love. The study found that: • Over the study period, 342 ads promoted 51 children’s food or beverage products, 25 (49%) of which were advertised directly to parents. • Parent-directed adverts were more likely to feature a child and parent, a nutritional or health message or active lifestyle, items consumed or parents reading items’ packaging. They also included themes of nutrition and convenience. • Child-directed ads were statistically more likely to be animated, feature a licensed character, the food as a character, promotional items and reference an Internet site or social media. There were also more likely to include appeals of fun, taste, humour, fantasy, action/adventure, desirability, and mystery. • 42.4% of total airtime was devoted to ads that targeted parents. Products with the most amount of airtime were ready-to-eat cereals (24.4%), sugar-sweetened beverages (72.8%), and children’s yogurt (25.8%). Chocolate, chocolate milk, bottled water, condiments, and baked beans were targeted only to parents. • 5 channels accounted for 65.8% of the total airtime for child-directed ads: Nickelodeon (21.3%), NickToons (17.5%), Cartoon Network (12.5%), Disney XD (8.5%), and the HUB (6.0%). Airtime for parent-directed advertisements was more evenly distributed over all TV channels. Lead author Dr. Jennifer A. Emond said: "It is a dual-pronged approach where food manufacturers are targeting kids to pester (their parents) for these products, and then manufacturers are marketing to parents to get them to think these products are healthy and not to feel guilty about buying them." “We need to look at how parents react to these ads — if they (ads) actually do change the perception of the products among parents, if they change parents’ minds and behavior,” she added.