Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Peter Jennings report on obesity in America

YouTube has Peter Jennings' report in 2004 or so about obesity in America. It differs from most mainstream reports by portraying more starkly the role of government policy and food industry marketing.

Consider this exchange between Jennings and a marketing guy (who wasn't clearly identified that I could see).
Jennings: When you're putting together an advertising campaign, do you care whether the product is healthy or not?

Response: I care that the product has a positive role in a child's life.

Jennings: But you know what's less healthy. You know where asparagus and soda pop line up.

Response: You are absolutely correct that I am not going to get the same return on investment for a client advertising asparagus and spinach to a kid as advertising some of the so-called less healthy products to a kid. Guilty as charged.
In a sense, one has to be sympathetic to the marketing guy. His advertisements are entertaining, and the products do bring a certain joy to a child. His client does expect a profit from its investment in advertising.

There is no point in blaming an entrepreneur for seeking a profit. But, realistically, we should lower our hopes that public-private partnerships can address the problem of obesity in a constructive way. Two more promising avenues for constructive change are better public policy and a cultural change among parents and other caring adults, as they come to see more clearly what a vigorous defense they must mount if they hope to influence their children's food choices in this marketing environment.

[See Marion Nestle's blog post about this show.]

[p.s. I had to fiddle with the template to get YouTube to fit, which was something I wanted to do anyway for other future uses. Please comment if this causes any errors in formatting in your browser.]

3 comments:

Janet said...

You observed:

"Two more promising avenues for constructive change are better public policy and a cultural change among parents and other caring adults, as they come to see more clearly what a vigorous defense they must mount if they hope to influence their children's food choices in this marketing environment"

Better stick with public policy. Parents aren't exactly getting the message, and the message has been around a long time. It's going to take some really, really amazing marketing--or something!--to make most Americans give up their awful eating habits and live in a culture of healthy and good food.

Frank Castiglione said...

I really loved the title of the Peter Jennings' piece: "How to get fat without really trying."

It seems that people are trying harder than ever to lose weight and be healthy. They are more conscious of food choices than in previous times. But many still struggle with weight-loss and experience food and lifestyle-related disease.

I think the tremendous amount of processed foods and the convenience of fast food are to blame. Many of my clients buy 100 calorie yourt packs and fat free cheese sticks and believe they are making healthy choices.

I think we must tackle the obesity problem in this way: educate children on whole, natural foods and the importance of physical exercise, and offer financial-based incentives for adults (health-care rewards/savings, etc.).

-Frank

Dom said...

Agree with janet - parents are not getting the message ... the literature about the correlation between obese parents and obese children suggests more than just genetics, it's habit.

I've found a similar story on meddlinks.com, discussing ways in which government can address obesity.