EDITOR’S NOTE: This post reflects my interest in advertising and promotions as a marketing student. The opinions expressed here are mine and in no way reflect the opinions of my employers. No agencies or products are endorsed.
USA TODAY‘s marketing reporter Bruce Horovitz looks at Madison Avenue’s use of obese people in advertisements as symbols of change. The story cites Nike’s “Find Your Greatness” ad that features Nathan running on a lonely country road as narrator Tom Hardy quietly assures us that greatness is not reserved for “the chosen few. For prodigies. For superstars.” According to the USA TODAY story, the other brands in following in Nike’s footsteps — so to speak — are Blue Cross Blue Shield and, of course, Subway, which is happy to celebrate Jared‘s 15 years of healthier eating.
From the USA TODAY story:
Why is it now acceptable to show obesity? “More of us are overweight, so it’s a shared problem,” says Valerie Folkes, marketing professor at University of Southern California.
But that’s only a small part of the reason it’s OK show obesity. A quote from Erich Joachimsthaler, a brand consultant, points out that the ads’ appeal is also rooted in a new generation — a generation where fat isn’t different and we’re all famous, even if for a little while.
From the story:
“The new generation doesn’t see (obese people) as different. There is a new, democratic world view: Everyone can be a star.”
With that casual acceptance in mind, we ask what’s the big deal? Well, society and the media tell us being obese is not OK, being overweight is not OK — it’s a constant message no matter how many times celebs tell us they like their weight gains or urge us to love ourselves just the way we are. But if we consider that in the calendar year 2009–2010, 35.7% of U.S. adults were obese, we understand exactly why brands are embracing obese people: They’re consumers, too, with discretionary dollars to spend. This isn’t about everyone loving everyone just the way they are; for better or for worse, featuring fat folks in ads is about sales — plain ol’ dollars and cents.
Quick facts about obesity from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention:
- An adult who has a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight.
- An adult who has a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese.
- Approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2—19 years are obese.
- Since 1980, obesity prevalence among children and adolescents has almost tripled.