Child-targeted advertising has gained prominence ever since marketers recognized children as profitable consumer niche. Young children are increasingly surrounded by food advertising messages on television and other media and interactive networks.

These advertisements have been successful because children spend more time on watching television than on any other activity (Calvert, 2008). However, concerns have been raised over the influence of child-directed food advertisements on the rising prevalence of pediatric obesity and overweight cases. In essence, television food advertisement influences children’s food consumption behaviours and choices, which in turn leads to poor eating habits (Termini, Roberto & Hostetter, 2011).
Therefore, the proposed policy will entail the formulation food advertisement guidelines that will limit the exposure of children to food advertisements on television. The policy will particularly focus on banning excessive promotion of unhealthy food in television shows and programs that target the child audience. Furthermore, the policy will mandate advertisers to start promoting healthy eating behaviors. Hence, it will be crucial to visit specific stakeholders not only to familiarize them with the proposed policy but also to garner their legislative support. The process will entail identifying policymakers that have a history and experience on influencing policies concerning pediatric issues.
Review of Empirical Evidence
Children possess astonishing ability to recall content promoted in the advertising messages they watch on television (Sitt and Kunkel, 2008). The effectiveness of television food advertising targeting children is enhanced through the use of cartoons, celebrities, contests, games, kids’ clubs, collectibles, spokes-characters and much more. Product preference develops following exposure to a single advertisement. Repeated exposures to the same advertisement strengthen product preference. Children’s product preference influences their buying requests and children’s requests influences purchasing decisions that their parents make (Calvert, 2008).
Recent discussions over the increasing trend in childhood obesity have focused attention on the role of television in fuelling childhood obesity. Researchers have published study findings pertaining to the correlations between exposure to television food advertisements and children’s food intake. For example, Harris et al. (2009) has found out that child-targeted food advertisements focus largely on promoting foods that have high calorie and sugar content. Such foods include fast foods, confectionaries, carbonated beverages and salty snacks. Harris, Schwartz and Brownell (2010) have established that children exposed to television food advertisements pester their parents to buy the advertised food items than those who are not.
Child-directed food advertisements influence children’s eating habits. The extensive marketing of unhealthy beverages and food has fuelled poor diet and increasing incidences of obesity among children and adolescents across developed nations. A study conducted in Australia indicated that 86% of television food commercials seen by children in 2009 constituted products rich in saturated fat, sugar and/or sodium (Lobstein and Dibb, 2005). Findings from another study contacted in the U.S reported that sugary cereals and fast foods constituted approximately 58% to 60% of all television advertisements seen by adolescents and children.
The United Kingdom and Australia are examples of developed countries that have enacted regulations to limit television food advertisements targeted towards children. These policies require advertisers to promote healthy foods and eating habits (Termini, Roberto & Hostetter, 2011). On the other hand, Norway and Sweden has banned completely the marketing of foods to children of certain ages (Cavert, 2008). In the United States, food companies have developed self-regulations regarding child-targeted television food advertisement. However, major food companies in the U.S have not made significant changes to the food advertisements on television that target children (Sharma, Teret & Brownell, 2010).
Conversely, current policies governing child-targeted food advertisements vary considerably based on their approach and scope. While some have banned the marketing of unhealthy foods to children, others have only set boundaries for the advertisements. For instance, regulations in Australia have focused on reducing the overall amount of airtime devoted to food advertisements during children’s programs (Termini, Roberto & Hostetter, 2011). On the other hand, Canada focused on the content of food advertisements that target children (Dhar & Baylis, 2011). However, the effectiveness of these policies depends on parents’ perceptions about food advertisements targeting children. The government may formulate sound policies but it is the responsibility of parents to control children’s consumption of television content (Sitt and Kunkel, 2008).