Not Just Fun and Games: Toy Advertising on Television Targeting Children Promotes Sedentary Play

J Phys Act Health. 2017 Oct 1;14(10):773-778. doi: 10.1123/jpah.2017-0044. Epub 2017 Sep 13.


Objective: To examine the volume of television toy advertising targeting Canadian children and to determine if it promotes active or sedentary play, targets males or females more frequently, and has changed over time.

Methods: Data for toy/game advertising from 27 television stations in Toronto for the month of May in 2006 and 2013 were licensed from Neilsen Media Research (Montreal, Quebec, Canada). A content analysis was performed on all ads to determine what age group and gender were targeted and whether physical or sedentary activity was being promoted. Comparisons were made between 2006 and 2013.

Results: There were 3.35 toy ads/h/children's specialty station in 2013 (a 15% increase from 2006). About 88% of toy ads promoted sedentary play in 2013, a 27% increase from 2006 levels, while toy ads promoting active play decreased by 33%. In both 2006 and 2013, a greater number of sedentary toy ads targeted males (n = 1519, May 2006; n = 2030, May 2013) compared with females (n = 914, May 2006; n = 1619, May 2013), and between 2006 and 2013, these ads increased significantly for both males and females.

Conclusion: Future research should explore whether such advertising influences children's preferences for activities and levels of physical activity.

Keywords: marketing; obesity; physical activity; youth.

MeSH terms

  • Advertising / methods*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Play and Playthings
  • Sedentary Behavior*
  • Television