A new report issued by the Center for Science in the Public Interest found 65% of the ads aired on Nickelodeon to be for foods of poor nutritional quality, while not a single ad seen was for a public service announcement, fruits, or vegetables.
The report, “Milkshakes, Sugary Cereals, Candy: What Nickelodeon is Peddling to Kids,” looked at 28 hours of programming on Nickelodeon between late May and early June in 2015. Programming was viewed between 7 am and 9 pm on a weekday as well as on a weekend day. Standards that had been developed by a panel of experts with the CSPI were used in determining nutritional quality, which was also based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Standards included criteria for calories, saturated fat, sodium, added sugars, and the presence of positive nutritional value.
Findings show that of the 787 advertisements viewed, 30% were for foods, beverages, or restaurants. The most common advertisement in this area was found to be for fast foods or other restaurant foods, as well as sweetened yogurt, sugary cereals, and sweetened beverages. The rest of the ads promoted prepared foods or meals and candy or fruit snacks.
A total of 65% of the food ads were for foods that held poor nutritional quality, such as Baby Bottle Pops and Frosted Flakes. In addition, the number of ads for foods with poor nutritional quality was higher in 2015 than it was in 2012.
In the entirety of the 28 hours of televised advertisements viewed for the purposes of this study, researchers did not see a single public service announcement or ad for fruits or vegetables.
The authors state that while Nickelodeon considers to be the number one entertainment brand for children, it airs a large number of ads centered around foods that have poor nutritional quality. Thousands of letters have been written to the company by parents, organizations, and members of Congress concerning its food advertising, however, a clear policy is not in place concerning how the company markets food to children.
Study authors state that children between the ages of six and eleven see an average of 12 food commercials per day. The majority of these commercials are for foods with poor nutritional value.
Despite a policy announced by Nickelodeon in 2007 stating that it would take a closer look at food marketing to children, instead focusing on the licensing of its characters to food companies, the policy has not been made publicly available. In the meantime, Nickelodeon characters are continually used on candy and other unhealthy foods.
Because the company does not require the food it advertises on its channel to meet any sort of nutritional guidelines, and it does not belong to the Council of Better Business Bureau’s CFBAI, companies that market unhealthy foods such as Topps (the maker of Ring Pops) and Chuck E. Cheese’s can advertise on the channel.
In comparison, companies including the Walt Disney Company and ION Television’s Qubo have extensive policies in place that require all of their marketing and advertising geared toward children to follow nutritional standards.