Objective: To examine levels of exposure and content characteristics for recent televised obesity-prevention campaigns sponsored by state and community health departments, federal agencies, non-profit organizations and television stations in the USA.
Design: Nielsen television ratings for obesity-prevention advertising were collected for the top seventy-five US media markets and were used to calculate household exposure levels for 2010 and 2011. Governmental advertisements were coded for content.
Setting: United States.
Results: Average household exposure to obesity-prevention campaigns was 2·6 advertisements per month. Exposure increased by 31 % between 2010 and 2011, largely driven by increases in federal advertisements. In 2011, the federal government accounted for 62 % of obesity-prevention exposure, non-profit organizations for 9 %, community departments for 8 %, state departments for 3 %, and television station-sponsored public-service announcements for 17 %. The greatest percentage increase between 2010 and 2011 was in community advertising, reflecting efforts funded by the Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) programme. Among thirty-four state and community campaigns, the majority advocated both healthy eating and physical activity (53 %). Campaigns typically had positive or neutral emotional valence (94 %). Obesity or overweight was mentioned in 47 % of campaigns, but only 9 % specifically advocated weight loss.
Conclusions: Exposure to televised obesity-prevention advertising increased from 2010 to 2011 and was higher than previously found in 1999-2003, apart from in 2003 during the federal VERB campaign. Nevertheless, exposure remains low relative to advertising for unhealthy foods. New federal campaigns have increased exposure to obesity-prevention advertising nationally, while CPPW grants have increased exposure for targeted areas.