Weighty Matters

Posted May 14, 2014, under Ad Absurdum

Health is a touchy subject. There are some people who resent implications that their physical state is not just fine the way it is. Others would just rather not be reminded at every turn that their health could be better. And nearly everyone we’ve ever heard of who has a condition gets a little angry at being defined by it.

Maybe more than a little.

One of the most touchy areas of health is obesity. We’re not necessarily interested in opening the sociopolitical can of worms that is the obesity debate, but there’s no denying that a lot of advertising has come out of it. Some of it has been brilliant. Some of it…hasn’t.


Pounding It Home

Being big does have consequences for the body, creating or contributing to health problems ranging from snoring to heart failure. Diabetes is a very real, very dangerous risk; the American Diabetes Association reports that the disease kills more Americans per year than AIDS and breast cancer combined.

You know a thing has made it as a major social issue when science fiction takes shots at it.

The CDC tells us that the estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. is $147 billion. So, on both a personal level and a national one, it’s understandably considered a problem. But while efforts are being made to isolate an obesity gene and other medical treatments, there’s also much to be said for straight-up exercise and diet, which many people can do themselves.

In addition to the medical community, there are gyms and personal trainers, whose entire purpose is to help people achieve their weight and fitness goals.

Left to right: New York City’s kind of gross “pouring fat” ad; a public service ad for bariatric surgery, and Gold’s Gym.


Weigh Too Far

All of this goes off the rails when it becomes less about getting healthy and more about “Ew, fat people are gross.” There’s even a term for this: “fat-shaming.” This is another aspect of the more general body shame culture we have ranted about before.

PETA is particularly awful about this.

On the other hand, sometimes an advertiser will risk offending for the sake of comedy (and revenue), and the risk pays off. This series of ads earned Interbest Outdoor a prestigious CLIO award.

We just can’t take offense at this. Look how into it he is. (Click to embiggen.)


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