Elham Al-Jaaly, King Abdul-Aziz University, Saudi Arabia, and University College London (UCL), UK
Purpose: To explore the nature and contents of food advertisements aired on popular television channels most watched by Jeddah adolescent girls.
Design/methodology: The content of 288 hours of television programming was videotaped in 2009. All product advertisements were abstracted from the programmes and analysed quantitatively in terms of frequency, duration, type, means and ways of delivering the message to the viewers. Foods advertised were classified as food/beverages high in fat, salt/sugar (HFSS) and non-HFSS foods according to the nutrient profiling model described by the Food Standards Agency (FSA-UK, 2005).
Results/findings: Saudi adolescent girls (13-18 years) could watch up to 21-aired product advertisements for every hour they watch TV and these adverts amounted to 9.6. Food and drink-related products accounted for roughly 18% (n=1106) of advertising exposure (n=6,272), and 70% of food adverts were for HFSS products. No significant difference (P=0.26) in the duration of adverts for non-HFSS (3.53 hours) and HFSS (3.43 hours) was found. It was noted that HFSS food advertisements were mostly presented by young adult actors, and the use of persuasive methods such as presenting food adverts with identification of sponsorship, price incentives, free gifts and celebrity endorsement was higher for food products targeting young audiences than those targeting adult audiences (P<0.001).
Social implications: The study revealed that adolescent girls are exposed to a plethora of food advertising that promotes unhealthy eating. This could have an impact on their diets and long term health outcomes and therefore warrant further evaluation.
Originality/value: The study presents the first descriptive analysis of television advertising viewed by Saudi adolescent girls; other studies in the region have not collected and analysed the data processed here. The results emphasize the central role and obligation of decision makers in protecting young consumers through tightening legislation and controlling media contents (particularly food adverts) targeting young people.
Keywords: Adolescents, Teenagers, Food advertisements, Food marketing and commercials, High Fat, Salt and Sugar - HFSS