Ecological momentary assessment of digital food and beverage marketing exposure and impact in young adults: A feasibility study

Document Type

Journal Article

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Advertising exposure; Craving; Digital marketing; Ecological momentary assessment; Food marketing


Unhealthy food marketing is contributing to the obesity epidemic, but real-time insights into the mechanisms of this relationship are under-studied. Digital marketing is growing and following food and beverage (F&B) brands on social media is common, but measurement of exposure and impact of such marketing presents novel challenges. Thus, this study aimed to evaluate the feasibility of collecting data on exposure and impact of digital F&B marketing (DFM) using a smartphone-based ecological momentary assessment (EMA) methodology. We hypothesized that DFM-induced food cravings would vary based on whether (or not) participants engaged with F&B brands online. Participants were Singapore residents (n = 95, 21-40 years), recruited via telephone from an existing cohort. Participants were asked to upload screenshots of all sightings of online F&B marketing messages for seven days, and answer in-app contextual questions about sightings including whether any cravings were induced. Participants provided a total of 1310 uploads (median 9 per participant, Q1-Q3: 4-21) of F&B marketing messages, 27% of which were provided on Day 1, significantly more than on other days (P < 0.001). Followers of food/beverage brands on social media encountered 25.6 percentage points (95% CI 11.4, 39.7) more marketing messages that induced cravings than participants who were not followers. University education was also associated with more (18.1 percentage points; 95% CI 3.1, 33.1) encounters with marketing messages that induced cravings. It was practical and acceptable to participants to gather insights into digital F&B marketing exposure and impact using EMA in young adults, although a shorter study period is recommended in future studies. Followers of food and beverage brands on social media appear to be more prone to experience cravings after exposure to digital F&B marketing.


Exercise and Nutrition Sciences