A new campaign by Strong4Life is causing quite a stir amongst childhood obesity critics. The organization has launched a series of print ads, TV commercials, billboards, and online videos under the mantra, “Stop sugarcoating it,” encouraging Georgia communities to face up to their current status as claiming the second highest rate of childhood obesity in the United States, barely behind the number one record holder, Mississippi. The ads feature cameos of obese children discussing the challenges of being overweight, including bullying and health illnesses. One ad even goes so far to feature an obese child asking his obese mother why he is fat.
While there seems to be a consensus that anti-obesity campaigns need more leverage, critics disagree over the target of Strong4Life´s campaign, children. Many argue that childhood obesity campaigns should address the parents of obese children, as they primarily control the diets of their children. Others feel that the campaign needs a stronger educational approach, not simply an appeal to human emotion.
Perhaps it´s a positive move for anti-obesity organizations to take notes from major corporations like McDonald´s or Burger King. For decades, these fast food chains have marketed “Happy Meals” and “Big Kid Meals” to children more interested in the toy in the bag than what they´re actually eating. It´s no secret that marketing to children is an effective way to reach the wallets of parents, as supermarkets also purposely place candy at low levels for small children to reach and thus, pester their parents in the checkout line to make a purchase.
Strong4Life is fighting fire with fire. There´s a need for childhood obesity campaigns that target children, as they also need to understand the realities of obesity at a young age. But indeed, it´s not enough to simply apply a shock-tactic approach to awareness. Children need comprehensive, fun education about nutrition and exercise to encourage action instead of just thought.
Strong4Life just one organization, and thus, it´s unfair to simply hurl all of the responsibilities of the childhood obesity fight on one campaign. There are plenty of other organizations that collectively can educate the younger and older populations, whether using provocative campaigns or educational programs.
Regardless, enticing bait is necessary for a good catch. And thus, provocative advertising campaigns against childhood obesity may be the best starting line for the race to end childhood obesity. Children are smarter than most think, and can handle the truth. Childhood obesity is a problem, and both children and adults need to be aware to work together to solve it.
How do you feel about Strong4Life´s Stop Childhood Obesity campaign? Speak on it.