The objective of this study was to describe food and beverage brand placements in a large representative sample of popular movies.
We identified and coded brand placements for foods, beverages, and food retail establishments in the top 20 US box office movie hits for each year from 1996 to 2005. We also coded general movie characteristics (Motion Picture Association of America rating, run time, genre, and information about major characters). We summarized the number and types of food, beverage, and food retail establishment brands by movie characteristics and also identified manufacturers that are associated with each of the brands.
Of the 200 movies coded, 138 (69%) contained at least 1 food, beverage, or food retail establishment brand. Movies rated PG-13 and R were significantly more likely to have brand placements compared with movies in other rating categories. Comedies, action/adventures, and horror films had more brand placements than other genres. We did not detect a significant difference in the number of movies with brand placements or mean number of placements per movie by year of movie release. A total of 1180 brand placements were identified and verified, including 427 food, 425 beverage, and 328 food retail establishment brand placements. Candy/confections (26%) and salty snacks (21%) were the most prevalent food brands, sugar-sweetened beverages (76%) were the most prevalent beverage brands, and fast food composed two thirds of the food retail establishment brand placements.
Food, beverage, and food retail establishment brands are frequently portrayed in movies, and most of the brand placements are for energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods or product lines. Movies are a potent source of advertising to children, which has been largely overlooked.