Tag Archives: advertising

Sugar drink makers spent more than $1 billion on advertisements in 2018

Beverage companies spent $1.04 billion to advertise sugary drinks and energy drinks in 2018, a 26% increase compared to 2013, a new report showed. The ads specifically targeted Black and Hispanic youth, contributing to health disparities that affect communities of color.

Credit Wikipedia Commons

The report, done by the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at the University of Connecticut, showed that more than one-half of the total sugary drink advertising expenditures ($586 million) was used to promote regular soda and soda brands – 41% more than 2013.

The researchers used Nielsen data to identify brands in the soda, sports drink, energy drink, iced tea, fruit drink, and flavored water categories that spent at least $100,000 in advertising and that contained added sugar. They also gathered data on the nutrition quality and advertising of the selected sugary drinks and energy.

The increase in spending was observed in a wide array of sugary drinks. For example, $159 million were destined for sport drink advertising, 24% more than 2013, and $111 million for the advertisement of sweetened iced tea, which almost tripled its funding from the $38 million destined in 2013

The report showed that teens were a primary target audience for sugary drink advertising. From 2013 to 2018, the exposure of teens to TV ads increased by 1% for regular soda and soda brands and 68% for iced tea, despite the time they spent watching TV declined 52% in the same period.

A similar trend was seen with preschoolers and children. Preschoolers saw 26% more ads for sugary drinks in 2018 than in 2018, while children saw 8% more. This happened despite the fact that preschoolers spent 35% less time watching TV and children spent 42% less time.

Companies targeted most of their advertisements to Black and Hispanic youth, who saw more than twice the number of ads than white children and teens. The exposure was especially high for sports drinks, regular soda, and energy drinks. This creates a serious problem as diet-related diseases affect more communities of color.

“Our findings demonstrate that beverage companies continue to target their advertising to Black and Hispanic communities, which exacerbates ongoing health disparities affecting those communities” said in a statement Jennifer L. Harris, lead study author. “Companies should not target communities of color with advertising that almost exclusively promotes unhealthy products.”

The most significant companies

The advertisement of sugary drinks was driven mainly by PepsiCo and Coca-Cola brands, the report showed. PepsiCo and Coca-Cola were responsible for 38% and 31% of all sugary drink advertising spending, respectively. Coca-Cola spent 81% more on ads in 2018 than in 2013, while PepsiCo raised its expenditure by 28%.

“Beverage companies have promised to take action to reduce the amount of beverage calories people consume, but at the same time they dramatically increased advertising for their full-calorie sugary drinks,” said Fran Fleming-Milici, a co-author. “It’s well past time for the industry to stop putting profits ahead of our kids’ health.”

The researchers included a set of recommendations, asking beverage companies to stop targeting communities of color in their advertisements, and policymakers to enact excise taxes on sugary drinks. At the same time, they asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to establish better regulations and healthcare organizations to do more campaigns on the risk of sugary drinks.

Young kids are exposed to many app advertisements, new study reports

While young kids are more and more exposed to technology like smartphones and tablets, they are also more exposed to advertising — something which their parents may not realize.

Most apps, be they educational, games, or something else, contain some form of advertising — and that doesn’t change for apps aimed at young kids. A new study analyzed 135 of the most popular apps marketed to or commonly used by children under the age of 5. They found that 95% of them used some form of advertising. Ads ranged from pop-ups which interrupted the play to distracting banner ads. Researchers also found that often times, commercial characters would appear trying to convince the player to make in-app purchases to enhance the game experience. They also write that sometimes, banners were misleading and not age-appropriate.

“With young children now using mobile devices on an average of one hour a day, it’s important to understand how this type of commercial exposure may impact children’s health and well-being,” says senior author Jenny Radesky, M.D., a developmental-behavioral expert and pediatrician at Mott.

When it came to free apps, all of them contained some form of advertising — which is generally understandable, as the app makers want to monetize their work. But the vast majority of paid apps also contained apps (88%), and the ads occurred at similar rates in both types of apps categorized as educational.

There was, however, an important difference between free and paid apps. Ad videos often popped up interrupting play, especially in free apps. In-app purchases were also present in a third of all apps, and in 41 percent of all free apps. This discrepancy worries Radesky:

“I’m concerned about digital disparities, as children from lower-income families are more likely to play free apps, which are packed with more distracting and persuasive ads.”

Overall, scientists found great variation, not much regulation, and an overall emphasis placed on advertising itself, rather than the user’s experience. There’s very little scrutiny to these apps, scientists conclude.

“Our findings show that the early childhood app market is a wild west, with a lot of apps appearing more focused on making money than the child’s play experience,” she says. “This has important implications for advertising regulation, the ethics of child app design, as well as how parents discern which children’s apps are worth downloading.”

Lastly, if other types of ads such as TV ads are a good parallel, then the parents are probably unaware of just how many ads their children are seeing. Researchers call for heightened scrutiny of apps, particularly those in the educational category.

“We know that time on mobile devices is displacing time children used to spend watching TV,” says Meyer, research assistant at the U-M Medical School. “Parents may view apps that are marketed as educational as harmless and even beneficial to their child’s learning and development.”

The study has been published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics.

Stephen Colbert ridicules administrator’s plan to allow NASA corporate sponsorships

Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s administrator, asked a committee of the NASA Advisory Council whether it is possible to raise funds for the space agency’s missions by selling various rights to corporate sponsors.

“Is it possible for NASA to offset some of its costs by selling the naming rights to its spacecraft?” Bridenstine said. “Or the naming rights to its rockets? I’m telling you, there is interest in that right now.”

Additionally, Bridenstine is also considering the possibility of allowing astronauts to sign endorsement deals. Perhaps they could appear on cereal boxes like sports stars, Bridenstine said. All those spacecraft delivering cargo back and forth between Earth and International Space Station? Well, that’s an opportunity for certain companies to access some prime branding real estate.

Okay, why don’t we name Mars after Coca-Cola while we’re at it? Stephen Colbert illustrated how absurdly this idea — which, to be frank, isn’t the worst we’ve heard from this administration — could play out. The Late Show host poked fun at Bridenstine’s proposition by showing his audience what the moon landings might have looked like with such rules in place.

Right now, federal employees are prohibited from endorsing commercial projects, and, according to NASA’s own ethics guidelines, employees may not use “public office for private gain”. Bridenstine is aware of this fact but said that he would like the committee to explore the possibility to exempt certain NASA employees and operations from the rule.

Corporate sponsorships in space aren’t exactly new. In 2000, Pizza Hut strapped its logo on a Russian rocket, for instance. Russian cosmonauts, who are not subject to the same rules as NASA, have also signed endorsement deals. Cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin hit a golf ball into orbit as part of a paid sponsorship by Element 21, a Canadian golf company.

To be fair, NASA really needs a lot of money. The agency has its eyes set on returning to the moon, to go with long-term lofty goals of landing on an asteroid and sending humans to Mars. Current budget proposals, meanwhile, suggest that financing for NASA will remain flat through 2023.

Such missions cost billions of dollars. Any advertising revenue would barely make a dent in a sum so large. No one wants to see astronauts plastered in logos like NASCAR racers or see the experience of going into space marred by ads. For some people so used with the grind of capitalism, this might be a weird idea — but there are things that can’t and shouldn’t be up for sale.

Brands and ads displaying wild animals could make us oblivious to the fact that they’re dying off

New research suggests that many people aren’t even aware that “charismatic” species are under threat with extinction in the wild — and the way we portray them in society is largely to blame.

Lions, elephants, tigers; they’re among certain species that, for one reason or another, we just love plastering all over branding or advertising campaigns. It’s all well and good for the brands, but new research suggests the species themselves don’t benefit from all the exposure — quite the contrary.

‘No such thing as bad publicity’

The team suspected that the animals’ frequent media appearances may make people perceive them as prospering in the wild. Which they are decidedly not.

To test their theory, the researchers, led by Dr. Franck Courchamp, the study’s lead author, looked to the public. The team created a questionnaire in four different languages asking surveyees to name the species that they considered most “charismatic”. They disseminated online and in French, Spanish, and French primary school classrooms.

“There is a regular claim that the most charismatic species are diverting most of the time and resources [in conservation]. I started wondering whether this was true and followed by better results in conservation,” he told BBC News.

Beyond this, they also analyzed how frequently animals are represented on zoo websites and on the covers of Disney and Pixar animations. After pooling the data, they report that the ten most charismatic animals are the:

  • Tiger
  • Lion
  • Elephant
  • Giraffe
  • Leopard
  • Panda
  • Cheetah
  • Polar bear
  • Wolf
  • Gorilla

For the next step, they asked volunteers in France to catalog their encounters with ‘virtual’ populations of these 10 species over the period of a week. They report, for example, encountering an average of 4.4 lions in media such as logos, cartoons, magazines or others each day. It may sound benign at first glance, but the team notes that statistically, this means the average Joe sees two or three times as many virtual lions in a year as there are real lions remaining in the whole of West Africa.

Despite their abundant media representation, nine of the animals on the list are classed as vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. Courchamp thinks this may have a subconscious impact, though there is no direct evidence as of yet.

“Mostly I think because people see giraffes and lions every day of their life, they unconsciously think they are in abundance,” he said.

The researchers also asked the survey participants if they thought these species were endangered (not in the strict IUCN terminology). Almost half of the respondents thought that species such as the (critically endangered) gorillas weren’t under threat.

While the theory might be right, it’s far too early to establish a causal relationship between our exposure level to certain species and our perception of their state in the wild. Other factors may play a role in influencing our perceptions about a species’ status and of conservation efforts.

One solution Courchamp proposes is to fund conservation efforts by “copyrighting” the image of vulnerable or endangered species. Under such a scheme, companies would donate to conservation-focused NGOs in return for using the animals in branding or advertising.

“I think it’s not so unrealistic,” he says. “There are already some companies that do that. Jaguar are in partnership with Panthera. Lacoste […] made a campaign recently where they replaced their logo with silhouettes of endangered species.”

Whatever solution we decide on we’ll need to implement fast. The outlook isn’t rosy for most of those 10 species. It’s estimated that without sustained conservation efforts, elephants will become extinct in the wild within a century. Cheetas are also struggling, being confined to under one tenth of their historical territory in Africa.

“At the moment we are doing first aid on species that are on the verge of dying,” says Dr. Courchamp. “We are just pushing the day they go extinct in the wild, we are not saving them.”

The paper “The paradoxical extinction of the most charismatic animals” has been published in the journal PLOS Biology.

Sex doesn’t really sell, new study finds

1916 Ladies’ Home Journal version of the famous seduction-based ad by Helen Lansdowne Resor at J. Walter Thompson Agency.

“Sex sells” has to be one of the oldest and most abused adages in advertising. Many companies will stand by it almost religiously, believing there’s nothing that a generous cleavage and some toned abs can’t sell. But as it so often happens, science is here to ruin things. An analysis of 78 studies on sex in advertising found that that’s not really the case. Not only are people not more likely to buy products following such ads, but they were more likely to view these brands negatively.

John Wirtz, an advertising professor at the University of Illinois, studies how ads impact our behavior. He carried out a meta-analysis (a study of studies) to see how sex falls into this equation. His findings were quite clear and trenchant: it just doesn’t.

“We found literally zero effect on participants’ intention to buy products in ads with a sexual appeal,” Wirtz said. “This assumption that sex sells – well, no, according to our study, it doesn’t. There’s no indication that there’s a positive effect.”

Not only was there no positive effect, but there was actually a (relatively minor) negative effect.

Sex in advertising has a long history. We don’t really know how sex was involved in selling stuff in ancient and medieval times, but in more modern times, sex and advertising often go hand in hand. The idea is that sexual suggestion stir fantasies in consumers’ minds, who then associate these enticing feelings with the product itself and thus become more likely to buy it. It all started in 1871, when Pearl Tobacco shocked the world with their ad, featuring a nude woman floating above some stormy seas. We’re not going to share that image, but if you want, you can see it here. When Pearl did this, it’s like they opened the gateway for other companies, which didn’t hesitate to take the same path. Just have a look at Ivory Soap ad from the early 1900s, depicting a group of sailors taking a bath together (text written below).

“We all had a bath…about 25 being under the hose at one time…It certainly seemed like home to rub in the mild Ivory lather from head to foot and then feel the delightful exhilaration following a brisk rub down”.

Juicy, right?

In recent times, ads like the ones from Carl’s Jr. show that the trend is still well alive. Watch the clip at your own risk.

If you think about it, it’s a bit silly. After all, what does sex appeal have to do with hamburgers or cigarettes or soap? Not much. It’s all based on the idea that sex sells. At a first glance, it might seem that it works.

Men especially seem to click with these ads. Participants in the study said they liked the sexualized ads, which is understandable. Women didn’t connect with them at all, which is again understandable, especially since the ads are specifically tailored to appeal to men. But even in men who liked the ads, there was no long-lasting difference. They weren’t more likely to buy the products or even remember the brand or product name. Making ads that people like but don’t sell is a pyrrhic victory, and generally regarded as unsuccessful.

This isn’t the first study to come up with these conclusions. In 2015, researchers from Ohio State University performed a similar meta-analysis of 53 studies and found similar conclusions. 2016 analysis of six years of Super Bowl ads found that sexy Super Bowl spots scored 9% lower overall than non-sexy ads.

The bottom line is that sex doesn’t really sell, and might even be counterproductive. Hopefully, companies will take the cue.

Journal Reference: John G. Wirtz ORCID Icon, Johnny V. Sparks & Thais M. Zimbres – The effect of exposure to sexual appeals in advertisements on memory, attitude, and purchase intention: a meta-analytic review. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02650487.2017.1334996

Unsettling sculpture showcases how humans would look if we evolved to survive car crashes

There can be little doubt that our way of life is very different from the conditions out bodies have evolved to live in. But how exactly would we look if our bodies were instead designed to survive today’s dangers? The Transport Accident Commission (TAC) and Melbourne based artist Patricia Piccinini have the answer…or part of it, at least, in the form of the strapping Graham.

Image credits TAC

Meet Graham. He has no neck, so he can’t break it. His flat face and boar-like head protect his face and eyes, he has airbags between his ribs and his knees bend in any direction. But why would anyone do this? Graham is an interactive sculpture developed by a trauma surgeon, a crash investigation expert and a Melbourne artist as part of Towards Zero, a Victorian road safety campaign. And according to the TAC, this strapping gentleman is perfectly adapted to survive one specific scenario — car crashes.

“People can survive running at full pace into a wall, but when you’re talking about collisions involving vehicles, the speeds are faster, the forces are greater, and the chances of survival are much slimmer,” said TAC CEO Joe Calafiore.

“Cars have evolved a lot faster than humans, and Graham helps us understand why we need to improve every aspect of our roads system to protect ourselves from our own mistakes.”

Graham will be on display at the State Library of Victoria until the 8th of August, before touring the rest of Australia. If for some reason you don’t want to go to the land down under, fret not; you can view Graham in his full 360-degree silicone, fibreglass, resin and human hair splendor online.

And I gotta say, after looking him over for a few minutes, I’m kinda glad I’m not crash-proof.

Alcohol Ads Lead to Underage Drinking

Well, who would have thought alcohol ads make people drink more ?! A new study has shown that alcohol advertising on television contributes to both underage drinking and binge drinking. According to the research, higher “familiarity” with booze ads “was associated with the subsequent onset of drinking across a range of outcomes of varying severity among adolescents and young adults”.

Image via The Guardian.

It seems like common sense, but a team led by Dr. Susanne Tanski of Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire wanted to back it up with science. They conducted a study on 1600 participants aged 15 to 23, surveyed 2 times: once in 2011 and a second time in 2013.

Out of the participants aged 15-17, 23 percent had seen alcohol ads, as did 23 percent of those aged 18-20 and 26 percent of those aged 20-23. The study didn’t aim to show a direct cause-effect relationship, but instead suggested that the more receptive teens are to alcohol ads, the higher chance they have to start drinking, or to progress from drinking to binge drinking or hazardous drinking – and the more ads they see, the more receptive they become.

The study took into consideration both beer and spirits advertising. Co-author James D. Sargent said:

“It’s very strong evidence that underage drinkers are not only exposed to the television advertising, but they also assimilate the messages. That process moves them forward in their drinking behavior.”

However, not all researchers are convinced.

“There are too many compounding variables to draw a correlation between TV ads and drinking behavior among youths,” said Janina Kean, a substance abuse and addiction expert, and president of the Kent, Conn.-based High Watch Recovery Center.

Indeed, there are many external elements which might interfere with this case – many other things outside of TV advertising – and it’s almost impossible to control for all of them.

“Lack of guidance at home, other family members with alcohol issues, and dysfunctional family relationships are all factors that can contribute to a person’s issues with alcohol, and explain why alcohol-related advertising would have been memorable for such a person,” Kean reasoned.

Alcohol is the most consumed drug among the people in the US, and youngsters alike. In 2013, about 66% of American high school students said they had tried alcohol at least once, nearly 35% percent said they’d drank alcohol in the past 30 days, and nearly 21%t reported recent binge drinking. The Center for Disease Control estimates that in the US, underage drinking takes about 4,500 lives every year, mostly from traffic accidents, but also homicide and suicide.

Journal Reference: Janina Kean, president, High Watch Recovery Center, Kent, Conn.; JAMA Pediatrics, news release, Jan. 19, 2015.