Obesity ads criticized for soft approach
ATLANTA – Drunks swimming in gin, smokers in body bags and dopers living with their parents deep into adulthood. Those are among public service ads of the past.
But the government’s new batch of obesity spots declines even to show a fat person, let alone wag a finger for gluttony or sloth.
No one is advocating public service announcements that ridicule fat people. But critics complain that the three new spots premiering this month are a wimpy attack on the costly and deadly explosion of obesity in America.
“It’s so namby-pamby I think people will shrug it off,” said Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington-based advocacy organization.
The three new spots are the latest in a series created by the Ad Council and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which try to tackle the nation’s obesity problem with ads that encourage healthy snacking and taking the stairs.
Creators of the “Small Steps” campaign, funded by the government at more than $1.5 million a year, cite survey data for 467 adults showing those who saw the ads adopted more healthy habits than those who didn’t see the ads.
But critics say such a survey is hardly proof of success, and the nation’s fat problem is clearly getting worse: More than one in three U.S. children are overweight or obese, and two in three adults are.
“I think ‘Small Steps’ is a euphemism for small vision,” said Kelly Brownell, director of Yale University’s Center for Eating and Weight Disorders.