To examine how advergames, which are online computer games developed to market a product, affect consumption of healthier and less healthy snacks by low-income African American children.
Cross-sectional, between-subjects examination of an advergame in which children were rewarded for having their computer character consume healthier or less healthy foods and beverages. Children were randomly assigned to 1 of the following 3 conditions: (1) the healthier advergame condition, (2) the less healthy advergame condition, or (3) the control condition.
Urban public elementary schools.
Thirty low-income, African American children aged 9 to 10 years.
Children in the treatment conditions played a less healthy or a healthier version of an advergame 2 times before choosing and eating a snack and completing the experimental measures. Children in the control group chose and ate a snack before playing the game and completing the measures.
Main Outcome Measures
The number of healthier snack items children selected and ate and how much children liked the game.
Children who played the healthier version of the advergame selected and ate significantly more healthy snacks than did those who played the less healthy version. Children reported liking the advergame.
Findings suggest that concerns about online advergames that market unhealthy foods are justified. However, advergames may also be used to promote healthier foods and beverages. This kind of social marketing approach could tip the scales toward the selection of higher-quality snacks, thereby helping to curb the obesity epidemic.