Counter-Advertising May Reduce Parent's Susceptibility to Front-of-Package Promotions on Unhealthy Foods
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Objective: Assess the effect of counter-advertisements on parents' appraisals of unhealthy foods featuring front-of-package promotions (FOPPs). Design: A 2 × 2 × 5 between-subjects Web-based experiment. Parents were randomly shown an advertisement (counter-advertisement challenging FOPP/control advertisement) and then a pair of food products from the same category: an unhealthy product featuring an FOPP (nutrient content claim/sports celebrity endorsement) and a healthier control product with no FOPP. Setting: Australia. Participants: A total of 1,269 Australian-based parents of children aged 5–12 years recruited from an online panel. Main Outcome Measures: Parents nominated which product they would prefer to buy and which they thought was healthier, then rated the unhealthy product and FOPP on various characteristics. Analysis: Differences between advertisement conditions were assessed using logistic regression (product choice tasks) and analysis of variance tests (ratings of unhealthy product and FOPP). Results: Compared with parents who saw a control advertisement, parents who saw a counter-advertisement perceived unhealthy products featuring FOPPs as less healthy, expressed weaker intentions for buying such products, and were more likely to read the nutrition facts panel before nominating choices (all P < .001). Conclusions and Implications: Counter-advertising may help reduce the misleading influence of unhealthy food marketing and improve the accuracy of parents' evaluations of how nutritious promoted food products are.
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