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Study: Fast food companies using new marketing pitches for kids

DENVER — Kids are seeing fewer ads for fast food on TV, but they are still seen as major target for a different sort of fast food marketing campaign, according to a new study.

A new study from the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, called “Fast Food FACTS 2013,″ follows-up on a 2010 report from the organization. In that prior report, researchers studied 18 of the top fast food chains in the U.S. and documented the changes in the nutritional quality of the food they served, as well as their marketing campaigns to kids and teens on TV and online.

Since 2010, the study suggests that kids between the ages of 6 to 11 saw 10 percent fewer TV ads for fast foods, and more of these ads included healthier meals, such as fruit snacks and salads.

But that was far from the whole story laid out in the Yale Rudd Center’s new study.

While kids on the younger end of the spectrum were seeing fewer TV ads, study data suggested that older kids and teens still saw about three to five fast food advertisements on TV daily. Appeals to teens on social media also surged. And while children saw more advertisements for healthier fast food options, these made up only a quarter of the fast food ads viewed by these kids, and only 1 percent of kids’ meals at these chains met healthy nutritional standards.

Another recent study published in the journal PLOS One may support the Yale Rudd Center findings.

The PLOS One study suggested fast food ads targeting kids were more likely to include toys and giveaways, which the study called a more-inciting draw for younger kids. Researcher went on to suggest that these types of marketing campaigns seed lasting emotional connections to brands, making children more likely to continue eating at fast food chains and take their own families there as adults.

“There were some improvements, but they have been small, and the pace too slow,” Marlene Schwartz, Yale Rudd Center director, said in a statement. “Without more significant changes, we are unlikely to see meaningful reductions in unhealthy fast food consumption by young people.”