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28 March 2013

Food-Promoting Advergames Stimulate Unhealthy Snacking – No Matter What Kind of Food They Promote

Keywords: advergames, diet, food, fruit, games, health, marketing, Websites, Western Europe, computer, experiment, food commercials, food intake, obesity, tweens,

Food marketing is seen as a major contributor to the child obesity epidemic. The omnipresent marketing of candy, cereals, snacks, fastfood and sugared softdrinks is often mentioned as the most important cause for children’s unhealthy diets. One of the newest forms of food marketing, advergames, often promotes such products. A new trend in health marketing is to market healthy foods with advergames. But do these games actually influence eating behavior in children? This study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows they do, and gives an important warning for health marketers

Take aways

  • Children who play advergames promoting food, snack more after playing.
  • This goes for healthy as well as unhealthy food advergames, they both stimulate snacking in children. And when children have a choice, they grab their favorite snacks… the unhealthy ones.
  • This is an important warning for health marketers, who may foster undesired effects with their healthy advergames.

Study information

  • The question?

    Do advergames that promote food have an effect on actual food intake among children?

  • Who?

    270 children between the age of 8 and 10 years old (mean age 8.9 years old). 51.5 % were boys.

  • Where?

    The Netherlands

  • How?

    The children played either a candy advergame, a fruit advergame, a toys advergame or no game at all. Afterwards, they could eat freely from four different bowls with food (two containing fruit, two containing candy). Then, the researchers measured their weight and length to calculate BMI.

Facts and findings

  • Children who played the candy advergame ate more candy after playing the game.
  • Children who played the fruit advergame did not eat more fruit after playing, but did eat more candy
  • Children who played the toys advergame did not eat more after the game, neither fruit nor candy.