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Michelle Obama’s Lets Move Anti-Obesity Campaign Most Effect Ad

Michelle Obama’s Lets Move Anti-Obesity Campaign Most Effect Ad

Research finds Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” anti-obesity ad to be most popular and effective…

Earlier this year the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta shocked the public with a series of controversial anti-obesity ads that hit billboards, television and magazines. The creators of the ads say the stern campaign was needed, but new research shows that scare-tactics may not have been the most effective.

The “Stop Sugarcoating It, Georgia” ads, which featured slogans such as “It’s hard to be a little girl when you’re not,” were designed to shock families into recognizing obesity as an epidemic. Linda Matzigkeit, vice president of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, the pediatric hospital running the campaign, said, “It has to be harsh. If it’s not, nobody’s going to listen.”

However the new research, conducted at Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, attempted to measure the public’s attitude to the many different styles of ad, to see which ones were most effective. And as it turns out, the First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign turned out to be the most popular.

michelle obama lets move anti obesity campaign 550x366 Michelle Obama’s Lets Move Anti Obesity Campaign Most Effect Ad

First Lady Michelle Obama Let’s Move Anti-Obesity Campaign

Image Credit: The White House, 2012.

The team lead by Rebecca Puhl, found that the public reacts better to positive reinforcement as opposed to negative messages. To compile their data, the researchers asked Americans to fill in an online survey assessing a variety of highly visible campaign slogans.

They asked respondents what they thought about how informative, motivating, or credible the slogans seemed. They also asked which ads came off as confusing, stigmatizing, or inappropriate. Finally, they asked the respondents whether they intended to follow the messages’ advice.

Puhl, said:

“The most positively rated were campaigns that focused on encouraging specific health behaviors or actions, like eating fruits and vegetables every day or engaging in physical activity…

“And the most motivating were the ones that made no mention of obesity or weight at all.”

Amongst the least favorite, were slogans that place blame on the reader. “The more you gain, the more you have to lose,” ranked low, and “Childhood obesity is child abuse” even lower.

The study found obese respondents were significantly more offended by messages like “Skip seconds… lose your gut” and “Fat kids become fat adults.” They were also similarly offended by slogans with stigmatizing messages between the lines; “You have the strength to take control of your health,” and “It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle.”

Despite the huge amounts of money that go into these advertising campaigns, Puhl explained that little research has been conducted into the effectiveness of the tactics used, and urges the companies spreading these messages to pay more attention to the harmful effects they might be having. In conclusion Pulh wrote:

“Considerable evidence demonstrates that individuals who feel stigmatized or shamed about their excess weight engage in higher calorie intake, unhealthy eating behaviors, binge-eating patterns, as well as avoidance of exercise.”


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  1. Lindsey Abrams: Obesity Campaigns: The Fine Line Between Educating and Shaming. The Atlantic, 09/16/2012.
  2. Kathy Lohr: Controversy Swirls Around Harsh Anti-Obesity Ads. NPR, 01/09/2012.

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