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Does Billboard Ad Campaign Targeting Childhood Obesity Go Too Far?


“Generations of psychologists won’t be able to heal the damage done by the new campaign.”

Israeli social media sites are flooded with complaints over a new ad campaign about the perils of childhood obesity that some say has insulted and publicly shamed overweight kids.

The advertising agency JCDecaux recently teamed up with local advertising agencies to create a campaign to remind parents of the high price of all those sugary snacks, Israeli media reported. The billboards went up on the streets of Tel Aviv this week and now parents, kids and even a celebrity chef are slamming the creators and accusing them of “fat shaming.”

“When your child gets fat, his smile shrinks,” reads the billboard seen in this photo:

The billboard says: “When your child gets fat, his smile shrinks." (Image via NRG)

This ad being seen widely on Israeli television and websites shows the photo of a chubby stomach turned sad face with the text: “Most cases of depression among children are tied to their appearance. Parents! Help your children be happy.”

Translation: “Most cases of depression among children are tied to their appearance. Parents! Help your children be happy.” (Image: Facebook via Mako)

The illustration of a seesaw with an obese child pulling down all the others reads, "1 out of 4 children in Israel suffers from obesity."

“1 out of 4 children in Israel suffers from obesity," reads this advertisement.

Israeli blogger Sharona Reouveni wrote, “The campaign lacks compassion and therefore promotes shame and guilt. I can’t help but wonder what happened to the people behind this campaign that turned them so apathetic about the feelings of others.”

“A healthy child is a child who loves his life. Don’t make the children hate themselves and be ashamed of their bodies. Don’t give a hand to the campaign of guilt and shame,” said blogger Vandersister who was quoted by the website Holes in the Net.

Several Israeli media sites quoted Facebook user Roni Gelbfish who posted: “Generations of psychologists won’t be able to heal the damage done by the new campaign against obese children."

Celebrity chef Haim Cohen, who stars in Israel’s version of the television series MasterChef, is also blasting the campaign. He took to Facebook to share his frustration and recounted his own failed dieting efforts.

"There's not a diet I haven’t tried (I think there isn’t)...but with none could I ‘marry’ or live together in a relationship and I always broke up with them using the well-known sentence ‘It’s not you. It’s me,’” Cohen wrote.

“Every time I prepare a sandwich for my kids for school, I am filled with guilt. The war against fat begins at a young age,” wrote Cohen, who last year starred in a version of MasterChef that featured child chefs.

“No doubt kids today understand that fat is not healthy, not attractive, not acceptable. Obviously treating childhood obesity is important, and starts inside the home and education in the surroundings. But one thing that shouldn’t be, that is to make children feel like they are ugly, that they are pitiful. And the one who created this ad is a criminal and in my opinion cynical,” the man who hosts one of Israel’s top rated shows added.

Spoofs of the campaign were posted online including one that says: “When a copywriter is an idiot, his mind shrinks." Its subtitle reads: “Three out of four copywriters in Israel suffer from surplus stupidity.”

Translation: “When a copywriter is an idiot, his mind shrinks.” (Image via HOles in the Net)

And this tribute to South Park:

The Hebrew text on this spoof reads: “1 out of 4 children in Israel suffers from obesity. Help stop childhood obesity.” (Image via Holes in the Net)

In response to the complaints, the advertiser released a statement which was quoted by the Hebrew website NRG.

"This is fourth year JCDecaux is raising public awareness of social issues of value and importance. This year, the issue of childhood obesity was chosen, in which the State of Israel is ranked 5th worldwide in childhood obesity,” it said.

“We regret the feelings of some of the public towards the campaign. The purpose is not to cause discomfort or ridicule towards children but rather to convey the importance of the message and to raise awareness about health and the implications of obesity among children,” the advertiser added.


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