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Ad brake

Family eating in lounge
Researchers: Andy MacGregor
Published: July 2016

Primary school children's perceptions of unhealthy food advertising on TV.


To investigate how children engage with advertising of unhealthy food on television. You can download the full report, Ad Brake, from Cancer UK's website or read the key findings below.

This project was commissioned by Cancer Research UK's  Policy Research Centre for Cancer Prevention.

Key findings  

This research shows that, despite current regulations, children are still engaging with junk food advertising on television:

  • Children are watching junk food adverts in the evenings and on weekends during family programmes, exposing the loophole in the current legislation.
  • TV advertising results in children pestering their parents that can lead to the purchase of junk food.
  • Children have a good level of nutritional knowledge, however they find that watching junk food advertising tempts them into eating unhealthy foods.

This study shows the impact of these adverts over time.

  • Immediate effect – adverts can make children hungry and want to eat junk food.
  • Medium term effect – after seeing the adverts some children then pester their parents to buy junk food.
  • Long term effect – in the supermarket children can remember the adverts & then want to buy those specific products.


This qualitative study was conducted in 25 focus groups across six UK primary schools.