National Editor Tom Karst
National Editor Tom Karst

Of course advertising works. Else why would we know about the Aflac duck or the Geico gecko?

If it works for insurance, will it work for fruits and vegetables? This research call "Economic and health effects of fruit and vegetable advertising: Evidence from lab experiments" is published in the October 2012 issue of Food Policy.

From the abstract:

This study investigates consumer response to various types of advertising for fruits and vegetables—a food category which health officials uniformly agree is significantly under-consumed in the United States. Using an adult, non-student subject pool of 271 participants in an economic experiment, consumers’ response to different types of fruit and vegetable advertising is measured empirically. This study finds that broad-based advertising, which is generic advertising for the entire fruit and vegetable category, increases consumer willingness to pay by an average of 24.6%. The simulation model shows that broad-based advertising for fruits and vegetables, either alone or as a hybrid with individual commodity-specific campaigns (e.g., apple advertising), would reduce average caloric intake per person by approximately 1800 kcal per year. The results of this study may contribute to new public policy initiatives that aim to reduce diet-related illnesses and obesity, which have become increasingly prevalent in the United States.


We examine the effect of fruit and vegetable advertising on their demand.

Fruit and vegetable advertising increases willingness to pay by 24%.

We develop a theoretical model and run caloric intake simulations.

Such advertising leads to reduced caloric intake of 1800 kcal per person per year.

Results are consistent with findings of an actual advertising program in Australia.

TK: The abstract, in its characteristic sparse verbiage that lies in sharp contrast to the periodic efforts of our friend the Pundit, gamely promises that advertising will produce results. And results not only for the industry (advertising increases consumer willingness to pay by 24%!) but also for consumers (such advertising leads to reduced caloric intake of 1,800 calories per person per year!).

I've long lamented the absence of a hefty win-win generic advertising campaign for the produce industry, and the authors of the study seem to agree with me. I e-mailed one of the authors in the hope of developing expanded news coverage of the study.