How are online advertising and marketing techniques used

Relevant literature on marketing techniques


  • Living Loud (2017): “we are building a coalition of health professionals, innovators in digital technology and great communicators from media and marketing. Together we inspire and support people to overcome illness and live longer, healthier and happier lives. We call it Living Loud, and we will make it free to everyone, everywhere for as long as it takes.”
    • Its take on food industry marketing is: “The food industry is at … a pivot point. It needs to ask not how it defends the very lucrative status quo but how it uses its strength to build a food industry which delivers both healthy profits and healthy people.”
    • Effect of instruments used by the food industry:
      • “Great advertising is designed to quietly influence people, to go consciously unnoticed, that’s why 62% of people think advertising doesn’t affect their purchase decisions.”
      • Ads convince us that snacks can be enjoyed every day, help us perform better, do not spoil our appetite, contain healthy elements, can be bigger, are associated with emotions and experiences and are normal.
    • See also: Former advertising executive reveals junk food-pushing tactics

Marketing on websites

  • British Heart Foundation and the Children’s Food Campaign (2011) The 21st century gingerbread house: How companies are marketing junk food to children online.
    • To evaluate the marketing methods used by food manufacturers to promote high fat, salt and sugar products to children we developed a checklist of commonly used marketing techniques listed below:
      • Children represented on the website
      • Cartoon characters including licensed or brand-owned (characters created by marketers to appeal to children)
      • People, personalities or celebrities whose name or image may be familiar or of appeal to children
      • Cartoons, animations or videos — competitions, games or apps with appeal to children.
      • Free gifts or prizes e.g. downloads or merchandise, toys or other items with appeal to children
      • Links to social networking websites.
    • “We also considered the overall presentation of the website, including the use of language intended for children or spoken by or directly to children, and the nature of the images and pictures shown. In addition, we recorded the use of age verification systems. As part of the process our researcher created a child’s identity and signed up to brand websites and social networking sites, and we followed the resulting communications from companies.”
  • E.P. Bucy, S. C. Kim, et al. (2011) Host Selling in Cyberspace: Product Personalities and Character Advertising on Popular Children’s Websites. In: New Media and Society 13 (8): 21.
    • A study of the use of cartoon characters to market products targeted at children online argued that the emotional attachment to animated characters that children develop may be increased by the opportunity to interact with the character through competitions and games. The authors further argue that the non-linear nature of content consumption online compared to, for example, that via the television may lead children to have a longer and deeper sense of engagement with the brand and the advertising content.
  • L. Kervin, S. C. Jones, et al. (2012) Online Advertising: Examining the Content and Messages Within Websites Targeted at Children. In: E-Learning and Digital Media (1): 22.
    • A review of Australian magazine websites targeted at children found that, in addition to banner ads, marketing messages were also included in the editorial content, such as in sponsored recipes and games, where it was suggested that children would find it more difficult to recognise advertising.
  • Living loud (2017) Snackify: how advertising conditioned us to snack
    • “A study by Yale university showed that children, aged 7-11, watching cartoons with food ads ate 45 per cent more snack food than children watching the same show with non-food related ads.”
  • V. Rideout (2014) Advertising to Children and Teens: Current Practices. A Research Brief. San Francisco, Common Sense Media.
    • The overall critique of marketing to children on websites targeted at or popular with children is that the marketing material is perceived to be integrated into the overall content, thereby blurring the boundaries between entertainment and advertising.
    • Marketing formats such as: banner ads, integrated videos and games, downloadable branded content, competitions, give-aways and links to social media sites are frequently used by companies to maximise exposure and engagement with the brand on websites children visit.
  • A.E. Staiano, S. L. Calvert (2012) Digital Gaming and Pediatric Obesity: At the Intersection of Science and Social Policy. In: Social Issues Policy Review (1): 23.
    • Websites containing entertaining and immersive content appealing to children help promote positive attitudes towards the brand rather than a specific product, potentially making the child more able to recall and request the brand over other competing brands.

Marketing on social networking sites

  • L. Garcia-Marco, L. A. Moreno, et al. (2012) Impact of Social Marketing in the Prevention of Childhood Obesity. In: Advances in Nutrition (6).
    • Teenagers are seen to be a core demographic for social marketing as they are heavy users of mobile devices and social networks, and because they are seen to be likely to want to share experiences and material with their peers. It has also been suggested that social media should, for this reason, be used to a greater extent to promote healthier lifestyles and eating habits.
  • J.L. Harris, M. B. Schwartz, et al. (2013) Measuring Progress in Nutrition and Marketing to Children and Teens. Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.
    • A review of online marketing to children in the US found that fast-food restaurants placed 19% of all their online display advertising on Facebook in 2012. It further noted that brands such as Starbucks, McDonald’s, Pepsi and Subway had a significant presence on websites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, with millions of followers and ‘likes’.
    • Engagement tactics included posting images or videos, asking questions, hosting competitions or posting links to either company or third-party websites.
  • C. Wilking, M. Gottlieb, et al. (2013) State Law Approaches to Address Digital Food Marketing to Youth. Boston, Public Health Advocacy Institute.
    • Promotion methods that receive criticism include asking the user to give access to personal and location-based data or requesting the user to ‘like’ the brand before being given access to content .Despite websites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube having an age limit of 13 or older, the authors found examples of what they argue to be child-targeted content.


  • S. An, H Kang (2014) Advertising or Games?: Advergames on the Internet Gaming Sites targeting Children.” In: International Journal of Advertising 33 (3): 509
    • Similar to television advertising and online marketing in general, it has been found that the products and brands advertised through advergames are likely to be low in nutritional value. A recent content analysis of 131 gaming websites that are popular with children found that 22 of these contained advergames and that of these 12 contained advergames that promoted food products. The majority of these games promoted products that were high in calories and low in nutrition. 11 of the 12 websites were listed among the 20 most popular gaming websites for children.
  • New York Times (2011) In Online Games, a Path to Young Consumers.
    • Deep into one of her favorite computer games, Lesly Lopez, 10, moves her mouse to click on a cartoon bee. She drags and drops it into an empty panel, creating her own comic strip. But this is not just a game — it is also advertising. Create a Comic, as it is called, was created by General Mills to help it sell Honey Nut Cheerios to children.
  • A.E. Staiano, S. L. Calvert (2012) Digital Gaming and Pediatric Obesity: At the Intersection of Science and Social Policy. In: Social Issues Policy Review (1): 23.
    • Advergames combine two social issues associated with obesity: media use as a part of overall sedentary behaviour and exposure to marketing for unhealthy food and beverage products.
    • Due to the immersive nature of game playing, it is argued that this format allows repeated and longitudinal exposure to the brand and marketing message and previous research has suggested that increased levels of brand identifiers is linked with increased brand recognition and recall among children.
  • M. K. J. Waiguny, M. R. Nelson, et al. (2013) The Relationship of Persuasion Knowledge, Identification of Commercial Intent and Persuasion Outcomes in Advergames—the Role of Media Context and Presence. In: Journal of Consumer Policy.
    • One of the few studies attempting to measure long-term effects did this by revisiting children who had been exposed to advergames for Nesquik two weeks later and asking them whether they had requested the advertised products from their parents. It was found that 30% of the 149 participating children reported having asked their parents for the advertised cereal.
    • The same study also found evidence to suggest that the narrative in the advergame influenced the children’s brand beliefs. Children who had played the advergame where the Nesquik bunny was seen jumping higher after eating cereal were found to be more likely to think the product ‘made you fit’ compared to children who had not played the game.

Not publishing all that is known

  • Cristin Kearns et al. (2017) Sugar industry sponsorship of germ-free rodent studies linking sucrose to hyperlipidemia and cancer: An historical analysis of internal documents. In: PLOS Biology
    • “The sugar industry did not disclose evidence of harm from animal studies that would have (1) strengthened the case that the CHD risk of sucrose is greater than starch and (2) caused sucrose to be scrutinized as a potential carcinogen.”
    • The Verge on this article: “About 50 years ago, the sugar industry stopped funding research that began to show something they wanted to hide: that eating lots of sugar is linked to heart disease.”

Marketing in points-of-sales

  • Upselling: “The tactic involves shops, cafes and restaurants encouraging customers to upgrade to larger meals and drinks or adding high-calorie toppings and sides.” The BBC states: “A poll suggested eight in 10 people experienced it every week. …Those who had experienced upsells had been targeted more than twice a week on average, with younger people the most susceptible. The most common place for it to happen was restaurants, followed by fast-food outlets, supermarkets, coffee shops and pubs and bars.” See also: Britain needs to go on a diet.

Shifting attention away from sugar

Cristin Kearns et al. (2016) Sugar Industry and Coronary Heart Disease Research. A Historical Analysis of Internal Industry Documents. In: JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(11):1680-1685. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.5394

  • “our findings suggest the industry sponsored a research program in the 1960s and 1970s that successfully cast doubt about the hazards of sucrose while promoting fat as the dietary culprit in CHD. Policymaking committees should consider giving less weight to food industry–funded studies and include mechanistic and animal studies as well as studies appraising the effect of added sugars on multiple CHD biomarkers and disease development.”
  • The New York Times writes: ““They were able to derail the discussion about sugar for decades,” said Stanton Glantz, a professor of medicine at U.C.S.F. and an author of the JAMA Internal Medicine paper.”