On August 31, the New York City Health Department launched a public awareness ad campaign against soda and other beverages that are high in sugar. The need for the campaign is clear; as we delve deeper into the debate about health care reform, we are urged to consider health issues that afflict a sizable proportion of Americans, such as Type 2 diabetes and obesity. But there are some people, including Bob Garfield of Advertising Age’s Ad Review blog, who think the ad goes too far. From a personal standpoint, the ad makes me sick to look at (a nice irony, given that it’s for health). However, as stated above, obesity is a major problem in our country; according to the CDC, over 34% of Americans aged 20 and older are considered obese, and 1 in 7 children also meet criteria for obesity.
That said, is the ad campaign going too far if it does succeed in getting people to drink less soda and sweetened drinks? Are cause campaigns exempt from common standards of decency if they effectively market against something which we can all agree is a problem?
I’m inclined to say yes. As we move closer to Halloween, I’m bracing myself for disgustingly graphic ads for movies like Saw. I don’t like ads that are overly graphic; I find them numbingly disgusting. However, until and unless formal standards are put in place to prevent graphic ads from being published, I think the Department of Health has just as much of a right as Saw. Let it also be said, though, that this where media literacy comes in, because I think it’s important for consumers to understand why an ad might be exceedingly graphic. The team that designed the ad campaign set out to make a point. And that, they did.
What ads do you think are too graphic? Share them with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, with a brief explanation of your thoughts and where you found the ad. Visit The LAMP’s Ad It Up! Ad Archive to comment on other ads.