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Open AccessArticle

See, Like, Share, Remember: Adolescents’ Responses to Unhealthy-, Healthy- and Non-Food Advertising in Social Media

1
Media and Entertainment Lab, School of Psychology, University College Dublin, Belfield, 4 Dublin, Ireland
2
Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies, The Open University, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK
3
Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, L69 7ZA, UK
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Co-first authors who contributed equally to the work.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(7), 2181; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17072181 (registering DOI)
Received: 29 February 2020 / Revised: 17 March 2020 / Accepted: 20 March 2020 / Published: 25 March 2020
Media-saturated digital environments seek to influence social media users’ behaviour, including through marketing. The World Health Organization has identified food marketing, including advertising for unhealthy items, as detrimental to health, and in many countries, regulation restricts such marketing and advertising to younger children. Yet regulation rarely addresses adolescents and few studies have examined their responses to social media advertising. In two studies, we examined adolescents’ attention, memory and social responses to advertising posts, including interactions between product types and source of posts. We hypothesized adolescents would respond more positively to unhealthy food advertising compared to healthy food or non-food advertising, and more positively to ads shared by peers or celebrities than to ads shared by a brand. Outcomes measured were (1a) social responses (likelihood to ‘share’, attitude to peer); (1b) brand memory (recall, recognition) and (2) attention (eye-tracking fixation duration and count). Participants were 151 adolescent social media users (Study 1: n = 72; 13–14 years; M = 13.56 years, SD = 0.5; Study 2: n = 79, 13–17 years, M = 15.37 years, SD = 1.351). They viewed 36 fictitious Facebook profile feeds created to show age-typical content. In a 3 × 3 factorial design, each contained an advertising post that varied by content (healthy/unhealthy/non-food) and source (peer/celebrity/company). Generalised linear mixed models showed that advertisements for unhealthy food evoked significantly more positive responses, compared to non-food and healthy food, on 5 of 6 measures: adolescents were more likely to wish to ‘share’ unhealthy posts; rated peers more positively when they had unhealthy posts in their feeds; recalled and recognised a greater number of unhealthy food brands; and viewed unhealthy advertising posts for longer. Interactions with sources (peers, celebrities and companies) were more complex but also favoured unhealthy food advertising. Implications are that regulation of unhealthy food advertising should address adolescents and digital media.
Keywords: marketing; advertising; social media; adolescent; food; recall; attention; peers; sharing; obesity marketing; advertising; social media; adolescent; food; recall; attention; peers; sharing; obesity
MDPI and ACS Style

Murphy, G.; Corcoran, C.; Tatlow-Golden, M.; Boyland, E.; Rooney, B. See, Like, Share, Remember: Adolescents’ Responses to Unhealthy-, Healthy- and Non-Food Advertising in Social Media. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17, 2181.

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