Kids Tune In To Cartoons In Advertising

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POSTED: Monday, June 21, 2010 - 6:24pm

UPDATED: Monday, June 21, 2010 - 6:26pm

Could cartoon endorsements help kids eat their veggies?

What does Scooby-Doo have that Mom and Dad don't? A lot, according to a new study. Erika Edwards takes a look at the power cartoon characters have over kids' taste buds in tonight's medical news.

"EWW!" Kids are notoriously picky eaters. Pleads from mom and dad don't do much to influence children on what foods to choose.

But the pull this guy has on kids' taste preferences would make most parents pea green with envy.

"When kids had the graham crackers and fruit snacks, they actually thought they tasted better when there was a licensed character on the packaging," said Yale University's Christina Roberto.  

Roberto put identical foods in front of a group of 4- to 6-year-olds.

The only difference was how the snacks were packaged. One was plain. The other had a licensed cartoon character like Dora the Explorer on it.

Overwhelmingly, the kids insisted they preferred the taste of the snack endorsed by Dora.

"Their cognitive development isn't at the place where they can understand the intent behind advertising and that they're being advertised to," said Roberto.  

Roberto is pushing for the Federal Trade Commission to restrict the use of licensed characters on junk food.

"I think it's critical," Roberto said. "If we can get the licensed characters off the packaged foods, it will really help level the playing field in supermarkets when parents go out to shop with their kids."

A better place for guys like Scooby-Doo and Shrek might be in the produce aisle. The kids in this study also said carrots tasted better when they had the approval of a cartoon character.

What parent wouldn't support the idea of Mater tomatoes or Princess Peas? Experts say the potential for healthier marketing is there; you just got to use your head.

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