Centre for Behavioural
Research in Cancer

Effects of food marketing with movie character toys on young children's meal preferences

This project aimed to test whether movie tie-in premiums (MTIPs) accompanying fast food meals influence children’s meal choices and their perceptions of these meals. A total of 904 Grade 1 and 2 students (aged 5-9 years) were assigned to one of the following four experimental conditions: (A) unhealthy and healthier meals with no MTIP (control condition, analogous to complete ban on MTIPs); (B) unhealthy and healthier meals both with MTIP (current situation in Australia); (C) unhealthy meals with MTIP and healthier meals without MTIP (worst-case scenario); (D) unhealthy meals with no MTIP and healthier meals with MTIP (potential regulatory model restricting premiums to healthier meals). Using a web-based method, participants were initially shown a short promotional trailer for a current children’s movie followed by either its associated McDonald’s Happy Meal advertisement (Conditions B-D) or an advertisement for a children’s leisure activity (control condition). Participants were then shown meal options on screen and asked to choose their preferred meal before completing detailed meal ratings.

Children were more likely to select a healthier meal over an unhealthy meal when only the healthier meals were accompanied by a MTIP (condition D) compared to the other three conditions. Children rated the healthier meal more favourably on appearance, likelihood of asking their parents for the meal and how they would feel if their parents bought the meal for them, when it was accompanied by a MTIP. These study findings indicate that, when restricted to healthier meal options, MTIPs have potential utility in promoting healthier meal choices by children.

CBRC staff

Dr Helen Dixon, Philippa Niven, Maree Scully, Prof Melanie Wakefield


Cancer Council Victoria


2014 – 2015