The Best and Worst of Childhood Obesity Ads

This week brings a couple of solid reminders of just how bad and how good childhood obesity ads can be. On the awful end of the spectrum, we have First 5 California running an ad with a little girl made fat through “creepy photoshopping,” in the words of author and blogger Marilyn Wann.

First 5 California is an agency funded by cigarette taxes in California to improve the lives of California’s young children through education, health services, childcare, and other programs. This is one of those “other programs” they can do without. Perhaps after the storm of critical attention this campaign has received, they will realize that that finger-wagging, fat-shaming ads are a waste of money.

Sadly, it’s not the first or last of such unhelpful ads that do more to attack people with obesity than to attack obesity itself. Minnesota Blue Cross stirred up controversy last year with ads apparently aimed at shaming parents of kids with obesity. Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta also made themselves infamous by taking pride in shock ads that ridiculed kids and families with obesity. Though they defended the ads, you can’t find a trace of them on the website for their campaign, It’s filled with much more positive messaging that might actually help.

Staying on the positive side, news from the advertising industry’s biggest trade show and awards event in Cannes reminds us what good advertising looks like when the subject is childhood obesity. Nike is up for one of the top awards with an ad reminding us that everyone can reach for greatness by getting active. The star is a boy who is chasing that goal, undeterred by the extra weight he carries.

It’s great to see Nike, a marketing powerhouse for active living, apply their core expertise to obesity in a way that’s constructive and inspiring.

Click here and here to read more about the First 5 California ad, click here to read more about the Minnesota Blue Cross Campaign, click here to read more about the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta campaign, click here to read more about the Nike ad that’s up for an award, and click here to read more about the fine line between educating and shaming with childhood obesity ads.

Is It Really That Funny? Photograph © tarotastic / flickr

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