The "Get More" Message: Promoting Fast Food to Blacks
Smith, Nancy Gray
Sawyer, Robin G.
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Blacks in the United States suffer disproportionately from overweight and associated health problems, relative to whites. Reasons are complex but environmental factors including fast food promotions may be contributing. This project compares promotional messages in fast food television advertisements targeted to blacks with those targeted to the larger general television audience. The primary promotional message of interest is that suggesting a better value exists through the purchase of larger or additional food items, referred to as the "get more" message. Also examined is the fast food promotional message for low or reduced calorie fare, referred to as the "get less" message. The main study hypotheses test for whether a greater proportion of "get more" food for the money messages, and a lesser proportion of "get less" calorie messages, respectively, are associated with fast food television advertisements featuring blacks, than with fast food television advertisements that do not feature blacks. The portrayal of identifiably black characters in advertisements, especially blacks in dominant roles, is defined in this study as a fundamental black targeting cue. The research method was a content analysis of 311 (138 unduplicated) fast food television advertisements videotaped on the six major U.S. broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, UPN, and WB) during one composite week of primetime television. The sample week was constructed over an 8 month period during 2003-2004. Ads were content coded by two teams, respectively, each consisting of one black and one white coder. Hypotheses were analyzed primarily through chi-square tests of association. Key findings are that significantly more "get more" messages were associated with advertisements featuring blacks than advertisements that did not feature blacks, and this association remained strong after controlling for type of restaurant, network, and date aired. Also, significantly fewer "get less" messages were associated with advertisements featuring blacks than advertisements that did not feature blacks. In short, fast food television advertisements featuring blacks were more likely to promote the purchase of larger amounts of food and higher calorie food than advertisements that did not feature blacks. Implications are discussed with respect to community education, policy, and the need for further research.