Can advertising sell kids on vegetables?

In a new study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, branded superhero-looking vegetable characters were used to promote vegetable consumption in elementary schools. The results were convincing. The kids added more vegetables to their plates. A lot more.

Does this signal a comeback for the Jolly Green Giant? Possibly.


As an advertising industry veteran, and co-owner of Fifteen Degrees, a Manhattan advertising agency where I currently serve as director of creative and strategy, I found these results encouraging, but not surprising. After all, kids love cartoon characters, which means they can also be captivated and influenced by them.

Ten elementary schools participated in the study, with 22,000+ kids being observed over six weeks. Some were exposed to a vinyl banner displaying the characters (fastened around the base of the salad bar), some to a short TV segment (think commercial) on healthy eating delivered by our characters, and others were exposed to both in combination. The banners alone doubled vegetable-taking among the kids (from 12.6% to 24%) and the combination of banners and TV increased vegetable-taking by 239%, which equated to more than one third of all the children (10.2% to 34.6%).

While flavor learning (the experiencing of natural vegetable and fruit flavors during prenatal, postnatal and the weaning period to the age of two of a child’s life), in my opinion, is still the obvious and natural choice for solving today’s obesity epidemic (especially in children) continued learning and reinforcement through marketing and advertising seems to me the perfect compliment to raise our childrens’ Flavor Intelligence.

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