Background

We examined how racially-targeted food ads affect Latino and White adolescents’ attitudes toward ads and brands, purchase intentions for advertised products, and willingness to engage with brands on social media.

Methods

467 White adolescents and 436 Latino adolescents were randomized to view and rate ads featuring a Latino celebrity or the same ad featuring a Latino non-celebrity. We used multi-level linear regression models to evaluate the association between the presence of a celebrity in the ad, participant ethnicity, and the interaction between the two and responses to the ad by adolescents. We used the Bonferroni-Holm procedure to correct for multiple comparisons.

Results

Latino adolescents indicated that ads featuring Latino celebrities ads are more targeted to them (2.285, p=0.007) than White adolescents rated the same ads. Latino adolescents also reported higher willingness to 'like' the post (2.191, p=0.045), follow the brand on social media (2.093, p=0.048), and tag a friend in a post (2.078, p=0.048) relative to White adolescents. For each of these outcomes, there was an additional main effect of celebrity.For six of the remaining outcome measures, ad liking, positive affect, commenting on social media, brand perception, taste perception, and consumption intention, there was a main effect of celebrity. Specifically, all participants rated ads from 3.41 (p<0.001) to 1.11 (p=0.015) points higher than they rated identical ads without celebrities, suggesting that both White adolescents and Latino adolescents respond positively to Latino celebrities.

Conclusions

This study is the first to demonstrate that Latino-targeted food ads are associated with higher product preferences and willingness to engage with brands on social media among Latino adolescents compared to White adolescents. Latino and White adolescents responded more positively to Latino celebrities than Latino non-celebrities, demonstrating the power of popular culture icons in influencing adolescents' preferences.