In the past year or so, there’s been a lot of outcry over the amount of junk-food advertising aimed at kids, but some new data suggest that those ads may not have anything to do with increasing childhood obesity rates. Or at least, they don’t seem to in Australia, where commercial TV networks recently reported that junk-food advertising declined between 2001 and 2006, and that children’s viewership decreased by about a third over that same period—even as childhood obesity increased. As one ad-industry rep told the Sydney Morning Herald,
If … children’s commercial television is falling at the same time as the incidence of convenience food advertising—meaning fewer advertising exposures to fewer children—a continuing rise in childhood obesity cannot be related.
Of course, maaaaybe the drop in junk-food ads didn’t just coincide with the decline in children’s boob-tubing; maybe what really happened was that food manufacturers saw the lucrative youth market moving away from the telly and decided to put some of their ad dollars in other mediums. And even with this decrease in advertising, Australia still “pounds its children with more children’s fast food advertising per hour during children’s viewing times [than] any other country on this planet,” in the words of one pediatrician. Those ads alone don’t cause childhood obesity, but they certainly can’t help.
Then again, I’m a little creeped out by kid-friendly Aussie commercials for healthy food.