French Fries or Cellphones? Which Ads ExciteTeens More?

Bet you're going to find this as hard to believe as I did, but a new study has supposedly found that teens respond more to food ads than to ones for cellphones.  You heard it here first.  (Well, not really -- it was a story that ran today at a blog called Futurity, authored by Jared Wadley-Michigan.)

Wadley-Michigan writes that "watching TV commercials of people munching on French fries or cereal resonates more with teens than advertisements about cellphones or the latest car."

Apparently brain activity is higher when teens watch food commercials than when they watch non-food ads.

"It appears that food advertising is better at getting into the mind and memory of kids," Ashely Gearhardt, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Michigan told Wadley-Michigan. "This makes sense because our brains are hard-wired to get excited in response to delicious foods."

Teens watched a video of 20 food and 20 non-food commercials, including those from McDonald's, Allstate Insurance, Cheerios and AT&T and then asked to list five commercials they saw and "rate how much they liked the company or product shown in the ad," according to Wadley-Michigan.

Guess what?  Regions of the brain linked to attention, reward and taste "were active for all commercials," Wadley-Michigan reported, "especially when food commercials aired."  This held true for both normal-weight participants and those overweight or obese.

But it's not all benign.  Wadley-Michigan noted that brain regions that are more active to food commercials in lean teens may lead to future weight gain.  


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