Tuesday, January 03, 2012

This is not the way to fight Childhood Obesity (three print ads).

(click ads, via)
These depressing ads, via Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, will, in my opinion, do nothing but make fat kids feel fatter and parents feel like shit. If I was a fat kid, these ads would make me want to hide in the pantry, or worse.
"We felt like we needed a very arresting, abrupt campaign that said: ‘Hey, Georgia! Wake up. This is a problem,’ ” said Linda Matzigkeit, a senior vice president at Children’s Healthcare.
But I agree with what Marsha Davis, who researches child obesity prevention at the University of Georgia’s College of Public Health, said: "Making people feel badly about their weight doesn't work as an agent of change. I guess it depends on what we want to do with these ads. If we want to get attention to say obesity is a problem, maybe they will be effective. In terms of the social stigma about weight — it might actually make people feel worse about that....We need to fight obesity, not obese people.”
Georgia ranks second nationally in childhood obesity—with about 1 million overweight or obese children—according to data compiled by the campaign. (I'm guessing West Virgina is #1.)
The organization is spending a whopping $50 million over the next five years on the Strong4Life campaign. Ad agency: Grey, Atlanta. Just to lighten the mood, here's a rather hilarious (in a very black way) obesity ad, via Belgium.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why are Americans so fucking fat in the first place? Look at those kids. If they are this fat now, imagine what they would be like by the time they turn 20. It's your "fortified" food that sucks. It's all crap. I feel sorry for you.

11:32 AM  
Blogger Tom Megginson said...

There's TV, too: http://workthatmatters.blogspot.com/2012/01/georgias-fat-kids-campaign-wake-up-call_03.html

And I agree that it's useless and potentially harmful social marketing. You need to motivate people to make better choices, but the conversation can't happen if you start by telling them they suck at parenting.

11:40 AM  
Anonymous RobbieR said...

Look at those fucking FAT KIDS.

Their bodies are UNACCEPTABLE!


12:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>but the conversation can't happen if you start by telling them they suck at parenting.<

Hello??? They do suck at parenting! I am sick of hearing how there should be no blaming. Well, someone has to be blamed and it's the parents. If you let your child get this fat, it is your fault as a parent!

12:15 PM  
Blogger Tom Megginson said...

I didn't say the parents are not culpable. But you can't bully or shame people into lasting behaviour change. Research shows that it doesn't work.

12:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is advertising at its worst. A shock tactic rooted in no legitimate insight. Plus, if the obese kids were bullied already, imagine the shitstorm they'll face being the poster children for this awful campaign. I think all of the responsible adpeople should be forced to publicly introduce themselves. Let's see if there are any obese people in the bunch.

Oh, and you know they are so proud to be seeing the responses to their PR. As if the ads would have ever generated responses on their own (I'm presuming the media budget is skinny).

1:07 PM  
Anonymous morningcigar said...


1:17 PM  
Blogger Scott said...

I have to say that I believe these ads are bringing to light the negative impact of how a parent's lack of discipline can impact their child. While they may choose for whatever reason to go to fast food restauarants or let their children play video games for hours, the children could be covering up self-esteem or bullying they might be receiving because of their weight. This advertising is only making parents aware that they need to take this into consideration and realize these decisions have long term consequences that they aren't aware are happening. I'm guessing that parents might find it more convenient or want to appease their child's requests in the short term, but fail to realize it adds up and even deny that their child is overweight. This is tough love and nothing to tip toe around.

1:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They're plastered all over here in Atlanta. My girlfriend, a copywriter, and I always scoff at them every time we pass them.

1:49 PM  
Anonymous Cactus P. said...

As usual, governments blindly ( or not) fight symptoms instead of cause. I thought the correlation between obesity and poverty was well-known.
http://www.ajcn.org/content/79/1/6.long. ...one of many studies and articles.

2:27 PM  
Blogger The American Observer said...

Here's the thing-- these people already know they are fat. And we already know they are fat. So, where is the awareness part? Americans don't need anymore "wake-up" calls about obesity-- most of them live it everyday. The fact of the matter is, Americans LOVE being gluttonous. I see ads on TV all the time for the most heinous "foods" like double bacon, cheese-stuffed burgers. Obviously, people support the chain restaurants and the garbage industry. We have all of the information we need to eat reasonably and manage our own bodies, but most people choose not to. Meanwhile, our country also chooses against subsidized or free health care. So, we have fat, stubborn, broke people who have a host of illnesses brought on by their lack of self-control who then can't pay for it and want someone else to blame. I don't know what organization has commissioned an ad agency to post these ads but I don't find them shocking. I just find them pathetic, redundant and useless. They should post photos with the dollar figure of what their fat-fueled lifestyles will cost them over a shortened lifetime. $1 Happy Meal= $700K of insulin shots, dialysis, and pills, pills, pills to keep you breathing so you can stuff more crap down your gullet! We reap what we sow.

2:35 PM  
Blogger cheeseonearth said...

They do know that they're fat and they do know that being fat is not healthy. But it's hardly about "self-control" if food is commercialized to the extent that it is. Most "food" that is sold at supermarkets is not food by any sane standards. You cannot expect people to not "love being gluttons" if most people don't have a normal relationship with food but only one mediated by commercial interests.

And, in any case, if you're a working parent with limited funds, how are you going to make your kid slimmer? Lock them up in the basement?

3:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They are plastered all over billboards around Metro Atlanta too. Every time I see them I have to stop myself from gritting my teeth.

4:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most of the major bases have been covered, but as a teacher in a large urban school, I can tell you that the problem is real, but these ads are crap. First off, as noted above, those at the poverty level have a hard time affording nutritious food for their families AND the food supply tends to be inconsistent AND those purchasing the food tend to be poorly educated. If we want to end the obesity problem in this country, we need to make major changes in cheap processed food, but that, of course, would take regulation, since industry will never do it unilaterally. And, if the government tried to proceed with a food-modernization regulatory regime, every wombat-brain who thinks s/he is a modern day Founder will scream "socialism!" and keep screaming until the last American dies of adult-onset diabetes and coronary heart disease. What can government do in ads like these? Suggest alternative lifestyle actions, like walking, and actually providing safe environments and targeted programs that begin to address these problems. If parents cared, they'd lobby local schools for special phys ed classes for a start. (Obese kids rarely want to change in front of other kids, etc.) If you go to the website they advertise, most of the "solutions" are ones that are easy for middle-class families with a stable at-home adult presence and enough resources to make major lifestyle changes. Again, they're tone-deaf to the problems of obesity and poverty, as noted by Cactus P.

5:12 PM  
Blogger Tom Megginson said...

Anon 5:12, that comment was great.

6:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Then explain why society had no problem making smokers feel unaccepted and intolerate of their behavior - end result was a dramatic drop in smoking during the past twenty five year. Whether smoking or overeatting, people have to adjust their negative behaviors. I hope you will feel sorry for these children when they are obese adults with little chance of losing weight.

10:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem for me is that it just doesn't read the way it's supposed to. The ads are so face-focused that the central issue being targeted, obesity, has to be spelled out in the copy. Visually, if I saw it at a distance, I'd think it was something education or poverty related, not obesity.

9:06 AM  
Anonymous Matt said...

And to those who point to the anti-smoking campaigns, bear in mind that those were multi-pronged, and the most successful (eg NYC) included aggressively limiting *where* one could smoke, AND a steady increase in the cost of smoking, to the point where in nyc 1 pack is now $12+. I suspect without those two factors, the campaign would have been far less successful, and there is no equivalent approach that could be taken for obesity.

9:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

View across the pond:

Don't know how "school dinners" work in the US, but an anecdote from over here is illuminating.

A high-profile campaigner for healthier school dinners managed to persuade those in charge to start producing meals which did NOT include the worst offenders in the un-healthy eating stakes: cheeseburgers, greasy chips (not the same as US french fries, much thicker and heavier), sticky cakes etc.

Cue pictures at lunchtime of parents (mostly mothers) who'd gone to the local fast food place and bought their children the burgers etc and passed them over the fence. They were furious that their children were not being allowed to have what they wanted.

Making the children either eat meals with fruit and veg or go hungry clearly classed as "cruel and unusual" punishment. Probably on a par with making a 13-year old learn a foreign language when they didn't want to.

Two things seemed to come out.

Firstly, there's the "if they/I want it, they/I have to have it," phenomenon. A friend, and very devoted mother, was talking to a neighbour who also had a 3-year old daughter. My friend said of some activity that her daughter was kept in if rules were broken. "Oh we tried that with Mary/Olivia/Emily," said the neighbour, "but she screamed." "Yes," said my friend, "They do." The irony went undetected. Clearly Mary/Olivia/Emily had got her parents well under control.

Secondly there was an element of cultural hostility. "Who are you to tell us what to do with our kids? We like burgers. They like burgers. You come in from outside with your fancy words and your fancy food and your fancy money and try to tell us how to bring up OUR KIDS." Attacking obesity in kids is attacking their parenting and also - since many of them are obese too - attacking the parents directly.

One approach being suggested (rather half-heartedly) is to ban advertisements for unhealthy foods (sweets mainly, but also burgers) during the TV programmes most watched by young children. I'm guessing that wouldn't go down big in the US.

How would you tackle a big campaign to reduce obesity?

6:15 PM  

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