CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- A study released today from Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity charges that fast-food companies are marketing to youth now more than ever -- increasingly targeting children as young as 2 years old -- using various media, and rarely offer healthy meal choices, despite the abundance of advertising about them. Rudd Center was expected to announce the findings at a press conference Monday morning.
The report's authors studied marketing efforts of 12 fast-food chains in the U.S. -- including McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's , Subway and Yum Brands' Pizza Hut and KFC. The study said that the fast-food industry spent more than $4.2 billion on marketing and advertising in 2009, according to Nielsen Co., focusing extensively on TV, the internet, social-media sites and mobile applications.
"Despite pledges to improve their marketing practices, fast-food companies seem to be stepping up their efforts to target kids," said Jennifer L. Harris, lead researcher and director-marketing initiatives at the Rudd Center, in a statement. "Today, preschoolers see 21% more fast-food ads on TV than they saw in 2003, and somewhat older children see 34% more."
Among other findings, the study examines the disparity in advertising aimed at minority children vs. their white counterparts. According to the results, African-American children and teens see at least 50% more fast-food ads than their white peers.
Check back for updates as we learn more details and the marketers in question respond to the findings.