The Kaiser Family Foundation has released a report saying that 85% of the top food brands using TV advertising also run branded websites to market to children online.


The report, called It’s Child’s Play: Advergaming and the Online Marketing of Food to Children, is an analysis of online food advertising to children for policymakers, advocates, and the food industry.


Kaiser found advergames on 73% of the food company websites, together with viral marketing, sweepstakes and promotions, memberships, on-demand access to TV ads, and incentives for product purchase. Kaiser said that Chips Ahoy, Chuck E. Cheese, M&M’s, Pop-Tart, Kellogg’s and Lucky Charms cereal were amongst the brands featuring advergames, and 25% of sites offered a membership opportunity for children aged 12 or younger.


In the study, 51% of the sites included nutritional information such as that found on a product label, and 27% had information about eating a healthy diet, such as the number of servings of fruits and vegetables that should be eaten daily. Meanwhile 97% of the sites in the study provided some information explicitly labelled for parents, such as what type of information is to be collected from children on the site (93%).


“Online advertising’s reach isn’t as broad as that of television, but it’s much deeper,” said Vicky Rideout, vice president and director of Kaiser’s programme for the study of entertainment media and health, who oversaw the research. “Without good information about what this new world of advertising really looks like, there can’t be effective oversight or policymaking, whether by the industry or by government.”

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The study analysed 77 websites, which altogether had received more than 12.2m visits from children ages 2-11 in the second quarter of 2005. The advertising industry will soon release more detailed voluntary guidelines for online marketing to children, according to Kaiser.