Anti-Obesity Ads: Controversial and Effective? Or Just Mean?

If you’re looking to stir up a heated debate, look no further than the subject of obesity in the United States. We’ll spare you the statistics, costs, and health issues associated with obesity; it’s in the news just about every day, we’re guessing you’ve formulated your own opinions by now. That being said, there’s a new ad campaign from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota that has given the US obesity debate a huge shot in the arm, and we’d love to know what you think about it.

Here’s the campaign in a nutshell: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota is trying to make the point that the example parents set for their children is vital when it comes to their nutrition. This subject has been approached by a plethora of wellness focused organizations, but never with such a direct “finger pointing” implication like this campaign does. Rather than sugar-coating the message or using marketing that encourages positive behavior, this campaign is approaching the subject head on and calling out parents who aren’t setting a positive example for their children. It’s direct, it has some shock factor, and it has people talking about it.

Opinions aside, this campaign has attracted a lot of national attention. Thanks to social media, we’ve been able to see the explosion of outcries on both sides of the fence. If you’d like to see some evidence, just read the blog post on The Salt: NPR’s Food Blog.

Our goal with this blog is to get a feel for how we can best promote health and wellness. So we want to know, are you in favor of advertising like this? Or do you think these marketers crossed the line?

Leave a comment


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  2. Colleen Thompson

     /  October 3, 2012

    This campaign doesn’t strike me as bullying or shaming, but rather as helping to create awareness: awareness not of the personal health implications of excess weight, which is something we’re all inundated with, but of the indelible mark our lifestyles leave on our kids. It serves as a reminder that we, as parents and adults, must lead by example; that being a responsible parent extends to modeling healthy lifestyle choices. And I think it’s effective because it touches us on an emotional level, rather than through logic and reason. Speaking as an overweight mom who struggles with these very issues, I’ll share that this campaign DID make a lasting impression on me, whereas all the positive, supportive, encouraging messages designed to appeal to my sense of reason go in one ear and out the other.

  3. Janice Flahiff

     /  October 2, 2012

    This quote from the NPR article really jumped out at me.
    “”We’ve been shaming fat people for decades, and clearly it’s not doing anyone any good.”.

    Why did this quote jump out at me?
    Probably because I recently came across an article in an environmental blog..
    Should sustainability leverage shame and guilt? (
    The upshot of this article is that shame does not change behavior.
    I’m the first to admit I’m not an expert in behavior. However, I think that behavioral change works best when it works with what motivates people by bringing out their best characteristics/values and hopes for their future. Perhaps attainable goals as spending less on food or being able to walk further…


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