Last year I worked on an Anti Childhood Obesity Campaign directed by David Stuart.  The campaign has received a lot of press for being in your face, unapologetic, and heart wrenching.

The Toady Show featured the campaign (view commercials hereand conducted a panel discussion addressing the criticisms, the praise, and the uncomfortable truth. Panelist, Star Jones, speaks about being formerly overweight and how ‘kind’ language justifications like ‘fluffy’ or ‘chubby’ only masks the harsh realities of morbid obesity. Another panelist criticizes the ads saying they are cruel to children.  The panel debates the campaign without resolution.

On the Wendy Williams Show, Star Jones supports the Strong 4 Life campaign stating, “Kids can handle it.”  Jones is a Heart Health Advocate and feels strongly that correcting our obesity epidemic will solve a rash of health issues including diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

In my opinion, the campaign was very effective for three reasons:

  • The message was very clear. The information is horrific, but certified clinical research is not debatable.
  • Conflicting public opinions helped to amplify the message to a national level gaining celebrity advocacy and extending the life of this campaign.
  • The campaign successfully reached the target audience; adults not kids.  The message is crafted for mature listeners who can digest harsh medical facts while remaining emotionally sensitive and connected to the child featured in each add.  Visually, the campaign is not appealing to children. The campaign is designed to look like a warning label typical of adult or parental safety notifications.  If children were the target, the art direction would have been completely different featuring kidcentric hooks, vibrant colors, movement, and quirky sound design.

Media criticism suggests the campaign is ‘cruel’ and ‘stigmatization leads to lower self-esteem.’  What does all the critical psycho-chatter mean to me?  Adults are listening!

NPR featured the campaign in Controversy Swirls Around Harsh Anti-Obesity Campaign by Kathy Lohr.

“It has to be harsh. If it’s not, nobody’s going to listen,” says Linda Matzigkeit, vice president of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, the pediatric hospital running the campaign .

She says parents are in denial. Nearly 1 million Georgia kids are overweight or obese.

“This is a medical crisis, and I say if you don’t believe me, come visit our hospital and see the kids we are now taking care of — that more and more have Type 2 diabetes, have hypertension, need knee replacements — and it’s breaking our heart to see these adult-type diseases in the children that we serve,” she says.

So… is that it?  What’s next? Have we been thrown into a hopeless spiral of childhood obesity and despair destined for an epic ice cream binge?   THAT would be cruel.

Part I of the campaign addresses the problem while Part II provides solutions and support.  Strong 4 Life helps the family make healthy lifestyle adjustments through better eating habits, staying active, and having fun.  The Strong 4 Life website has informative videos and medical information.

Thank you, CHCOA, for everything you do for our kids!