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Does self regulation work? The case of television food advertisement to children in Germany


  • Landwehr, Stefanie C.
  • Hartmann, Monika


Television advertisement targeting children and promoting food products high in sugar, saturated fat or sodium is considered to enhance the development of childhood overweight and obesity. Thus, reducing children’s exposure to advertisement of energy-dense, nutrient-poor (EDNP) products is considered as one option to improve children’s health. In 2007, globally leading food and beverage companies launched the EU Pledge, a self-regulation initiative in which signatory corporations agreed to restrict television and internet advertising of EDNP products not in line with specific nutritional criteria to media audiences of at least 35 % children under the age of 12 at European level. While initially each participating corporation defined their own nutritional criteria, in 2012 companies agreed on a common nutrient profiling system which has to be adopted by the end of 2014. The overall objective of this study is to examine the effectiveness of the EU Pledge in reducing children’s exposure television advertising of EDNP food and drink products. In October 2011, 2012 and 2014, television program of ten German television networks was recorded each on one weekend day and one week day. In total, 892 hours of television program were taped. Data was analyzed using content analysis. The sample contains 127.6 hours of advertising with a total of 1,069 food commercials addressing children. More than half of all food advertisements designed in a child-appealing way originates from Pledge-signatory companies (57.4 %). The share of products from Pledge-participating companies matching the common criteria of the EU Pledge increased from 37.5 % in 2011 to 75.0 % in 2014. At the same time, the share of non-participating companies declined (2011: 80.0 %; 2014: 25.0 %). However, compared to the criteria of the Ofcom score (compliance Pledge-members 2011: 12.5 %; 2014: 25.0) criteria of the EU Pledge are considerable less strict. The results indicate that despite the adoption of harmonized criteria, the overall nutritional value of food products advertised to children on television has not improved as EDNP products continue dominating food commercials to children.

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  • Landwehr, Stefanie C. & Hartmann, Monika, 2016. "Does self regulation work? The case of television food advertisement to children in Germany," 2016 Annual Meeting, July 31-August 2, Boston, Massachusetts 235881, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:aaea16:235881
    DOI: 10.22004/ag.econ.235881

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Agricultural and Food Policy; Health Economics and Policy; Marketing;
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