Background: Movie tie-in premiums are a pervasive method of targeting children with fast-food advertising.
Aim: To test whether (i) movie tie-in premiums accompanying fast-food meals influence young children’s meal choices and their perceptions of these meals; and (ii) effects of these promotions occur to the same degree for both unhealthy and healthy fast-food meals.
Methods: Experimental design whereby approximately 800 students in grades 1 and 2 from Melbourne metropolitan primary schools will be randomly assigned to one of four conditions: (i) unhealthy vs. healthy meal (control – no premiums); (ii) unhealthy vs. healthy meal (both with premium); (iii) unhealthy meal (with premium) vs. healthy meal (without premium); (iv) unhealthy meal (without premium) vs. healthy meal (with premium). All participants will initially be shown a short promotional trailer for a current children’s movie followed by an advertisement for a McDonald’s Happy Meal associated with the same movie (Conditions 2-4) or an advertisement for a children’s leisure activity (Control condition). Participants will then be shown their two meals on screen and asked to choose their preferred meal. They will also complete detailed ratings of each of these meals.
Results: This study is currently in the field (n=680 cases completed so far). By the time of the conference, data collection will be complete and preliminary results will be available for presentation. For the analyses, logistic regression will be used to test whether the proportion of students choosing the unhealthy meal over the healthy meal varies as a function of the inclusion of a movie tie-in premium. ANOVA will be used to test mean differences in ratings of the unhealthy and healthy meals by condition.
Conclusion: Results will inform a potential regulatory model whereby movie tie-in premiums would not be permitted to accompany unhealthy fast-food meals and/or the potential for premiums to only be permitted to accompany healthy fast-food meals.