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Parents are the Real Targets for many Children’s Food and Beverages Ads, Study Says

Update Date: Nov 09, 2015 04:09 PM EST

Parents are the targets of so many different TV ads and they are not even aware of the fact that they are being manipulated, a new study reported.

According to the study, commercials for children's foods and beverages, particularly those that are unhealthy, are generally targeted to parents. The research team from the University of Connecticut Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity was able to make this conclusion after analyzing TV commercials for children-specific packaged foods and beverages that had aired within the United States between 20013 and 2014.

The researchers specifically analyzed the ads that aired on Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and other children-appropriate channels. The team found that 25 out of 51 ads involving packaged food products were intended for children and adults. The ads featured family unity, such as hugging and kissing. Overall, for ads involving children's foods, parents were also targets 42 percent of the time.

"This marketing strategy consists of a one-two punch, with the children's ads aiming to increase the likelihood of a purchase request from the child, and the parent advertising aiming to undermine the parent's ability to say 'no' to the request," senior study author Diane Gilbert-Diamond said in a journal news release reported by HealthDay.

For sugar-sweetened beverages, the researchers found that 73 percent of the ads were geared toward parents. These types of ads also included themes such as family bonding. Other ads that were for children but targeted at parents used messages, such as nutrition. These messages were trying to convince parents to buy "healthy" foods for their children.

Study lead author Jennifer Emond, added, "We need to determine how these advertising messages might undermine the ability of parents to identify healthy foods for their children."

The researchers did not look at all types of unhealthy foods that could have targeted children and adults.

The findings were published in the journal, Pediatrics.

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