Controversial Or Just Plain Insensitive?

In today’s society we are intent on pushing boundaries just to capture the attention of our audiences. Advertisements have become more risky and daring in proposing controversial topics in a way which forces the viewer to engage and form an opinion. Powerful images work to manipulate an audience through signs. How an individual perceives an image depends upon their specific values and beliefs and certain campaigns intend to provoke a particular community who may take offence.

How far is too far? Many ads have been banned for crossing the line. Today we are lead to believe that any press is good press and often bad publicity is better than good because outrage spreads like wildfire.

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“It’s hard to be a little girl if you’re not.” Ouch. Perhaps a little too insensitive? Other tag lines for the anti-obesity campaign run by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta as part of their Strong4Life program included “Fat prevention begins at home. And in the buffet line.” and “My fat may be funny to you. But it’s killing me.” Along with the series of billboard pictures the campaign included multiple short videos outlining different effects of obesity on children. Most of them included the tagline at the end saying “Stop sugarcoating it, Georgia.” The ad is targeted at parents and encourages them to make a difference in their child’s life by showing negative effects of obesity, such as disease and bullying. The Strong4Life twitter replied to a user who claimed their ads were a “sophisticated way of bullying” by saying that “obese kids get bullied all the time” and they were merely attempting to end the “issue” and decrease the amount of bullying. I’m confused, so what we’re supposed to take from this is that their anti-bulling campaign is to stop being fat?

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I feel they may have crossed the line just a little on this one with the harsh connotations targeted towards obesity. Although maybe like the vice-president of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Linda Matzigkeit, says “It has to be harsh. If it’s not, nobody’s going to listen.” A true statement, but within that there should be limits. Controversy and shock-factor are vital elements in advertising but when it gets to the point where an advertisement is offending a demographic audience and provoking strong negative reactions perhaps certain limitations should be undertaken.

References:

SALAHI and SALAHI, L. 2012. Child Obesity Ads: Public Service or Put-Down?. [online] Available at: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Wellness/stop-sugarcoating-child-obesity-ads-draw-controversy/story?id=15273638 [Accessed: 30 Mar 2014].

NPR.org. 2012. Controversy Swirls Around Harsh Anti-Obesity Ads. [online] Available at: http://www.npr.org/2012/01/09/144799538/controversy-swirls-around-harsh-anti-obesity-ads [Accessed: 30 Mar 2014].

Mail Online. 2012. ‘Mom, why am I fat?’: Controversy over shock anti-obesity ads featuring overweight children. [online] Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2081328/Weighty-debate-anti-obesity-ads-featuring-fat-kids-causes-criticism-health-advocates-shock-tactics.html [Accessed: 30 Mar 2014].

NY Daily News. 2014. Anti-obesity ads featuring overweight kids spark controversy in Georgia. [online] Available at: http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/anti-obesity-ads-featuring-overweight-kids-spark-controversy-georgia-article-1.1000142 [Accessed: 30 Mar 2014].

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7 thoughts on “Controversial Or Just Plain Insensitive?

  1. Jarrah, you have chosen a great advert for discussion. It really made me think. I watched the films and I’m with you, I think they have gone too far. Creating ads which bully the parents is sending mixed messages to children, whom we are trying to teach that bullying is wrong in all forms. They need to educate parents, not bully them or make them feel bad. This just makes them feel like failures.

    1. I agree, I think the campaign should’ve been targeted more towards the parents, although I understand they were targeting the children because that’s a mother or father’s weak spot, but I think there are much better ways to do so. Like you said, they need to educate them not insult them. xx

  2. Very true. I do feel bad for the little girl who’s in the image. It is a very serious issue and obesity can cause health problems, but it’s all a very tricky situation to try to avoid hurting feelings and not to create controversy. I feel you have depicted both positive and negatives sides of the campaign appropriately. I agree that the advertisement had gone a little far but I guess in this kind of situation you can’t win or lose; either your feelings get hurt or you get hurt physically from obesity 😦

    1. The little girl in this image was just one of the multiple children whose weight they were shaming. I’m with you on that one, they’ve definitely gone too far but someone is always going to get hurt, unfortunately. Thanks for saying you though I wrote about this appropriately 🙂

  3. Yes, you are definitely right you have done a great job at catching both sides of the argument. At the end of the day obesity is a serious issues and its so hard not to hurt people along the way. I suppose the media could go about it in a different angle. Maybe advertising healthy eating and more exercise for children. Great Blog! 🙂

    1. Exactly! I agree they should focus on positive ways to fix the problem rather than using rather harsh techniques, like you said the promotion of healthy eating and exercise.
      Thank you! x

  4. Obesity is a serious issue and it seemed to be presented in a very cold-hearted manner here. It’s definitely hard to avoid hurting the feelings of the parents or the children but surely there was a more affirmative alternative to effectively inform individuals about the issues associated with obesity. Good choice for a controversial text!

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