Aussie Professor Accuses Digital Marketers Of Targeting Kids With ‘Hidden’ Junk Food Ads

Aussie Professor Accuses Digital Marketers Of Targeting Kids With ‘Hidden’ Junk Food Ads

Digital media marketing firms are using personalised promotion, interactive and direct engagement and integrated cross-platform techniques to sell products to young people that are high in fat, sugar and salt, according to an Aussie professor.

In her study of six food brands, University of Sydney Business School’s associate professor of marketing, Teresa Davis, identified a number of methods used by digital marketers to build brand relationships with young consumers in ways not seen in traditional media.

Teresa Davis

Teresa Davis

Davis’ study analysed the content of branded mobile phone applications, branded websites and branded Facebook sites to understand the nature of consumer-brand relationship strategies employed by digital marketers.

“Food marketers have an unfair advantage in the digital space,” Davis said.

“Since working on my PhD, ‘How young children recognise the symbolism of brands’, it has been clear to me that young children do not understand advertising in quite the same way that adults do.”

“Cognitively, there are developmental differences. This simply means their minds are more vulnerable to persuasion.

“Regulations governing traditional advertising does more to help protect the vulnerable. Hidden advertising in newer forms of digital media makes it harder than ever for children, and their parents, to understand how much of it they are exposed to.

“Understanding how it works and how it can be regulated or managed is extremely important if we want to ensure a healthy future for generations of young Australians.”

Davis said she hopes her research will inform Australia’s policy making around the marketing of food.

“In the Australian context, we have a food marketing industry that is currently self-regulating. There is a code of practice and companies can be called to account only through a complaints-based system,” she said.

“This system has a poor record when it comes to in censuring advertising that breaks the rules.”

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Teresa Davis University of Sydney Business School

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