Watkins, L., Gage, R., Smith, M., McKerchar, C., Aitken, R., & Signal, L. (2022). An objective assessment of children’s exposure to brand marketing in New Zealand (Kid’s Cam): a cross-sectional study. Lancet Planet Health, 1-7. 10.1016/S2542-5196(21)00290-4
Marketing promotes values of consumerism and overconsumption, and negatively affects children’s wellbeing and psychological development. The threat marketing poses to planetary health is just being realised. However, little is known about children’s exposure to marketing at an aggregate level. Using an objective method of wearable cameras, we aimed to determine the nature and extent of children’s exposure to marketing.
Kids’Cam was a cross-sectional study of children aged 11–13 years in New Zealand, from which we randomly selected a sample of 90 children. Children wore cameras from when they woke up until they went to sleep for four consecutive days (Thursday–Sunday) that captured images at an angle of 136° every 7 s for exposure to marketing. Marketing brands were categorised into three groups: core food and social marketing messages, harmful commodities (eg, non-core food, alcohol, and gambling), or other. Exposure rates by marketing medium, setting, and product category were calculated using negative binomial regression models.
From June 21, 2014, to June 30, 2015, we recruited 168 children, and randomly selected data from 90 children for the present study. Children in this study were exposed to a mean of 554 brands per 10 h day (95% CI 491–625), nearly a brand a minute, through multiple mediums (predominantly brand labels [36% of exposures] and product packaging [22%]) and mostly in schools (43%) and at home (30%). Food and beverages (20% of exposures) were the dominant product category. The most pervasive marketing brands typically sold a range of products across more than one product category (eg, children were exposed to Nike on average 20 exposures per day). Children were exposed to more than twice as many harmful commodities (mean 76 per 10 h day [95% CI 55–105]) as core food and social marketing messages (32 [26–39]) per day.
We found that children are repeatedly exposed to marketing through multiple mediums and across all settings, and our findings suggests that marketing privileges particular messages, for example, marketing of harmful commodities. Given the key role marketing plays in establishing and supporting consumption norms, and perpetuating the normalisation of overconsumption which contributes to environmental degradation, these findings suggest an urgent need to reduce marketing to promote planetary health.