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Ad Campaigns Promoting Eating Disorders

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Guest blogger Maggie Baumann, MA:I recently posted a story about "Binge Better," a marketing campaign promoting baby carrots. I don't slight baby carrots at all, but I do slight the way the ad company promoted them by saying that "binging" on them is a healthy behavior.

Eating Disorder Ad

Binging on any food is an emotional response. It can be fueled by feelings of sadness, frustration or loneliness, and underneath those feelings usually lies a past history of abuse, trauma or neglect. People who binge are often struggling with both serious psychological issues and the physical ramifications of putting themselves at an increased risk for obesity. As an advocate for eating-disorder prevention and awareness, I found the campaign distasteful; baby-carrot marketers were trying to suck in buyers with the idea that eating baby carrots like "junk food" and "binging" on them is a cool thing.

Well, I wish I could stop there when it comes to examples of advertising companies using unsavory tactics to get a food product to fly off the shelf, no matter how damaging the message used. But I just heard of another offensive campaign, this one for Snack Factory's Pretzel Crisps. This past August, the new campaign for this snack item debuted, and its tagline was, "You can never be too thin."

As with the baby carrots, it's not the health value of the pretzels that is at issue. It's the fact that the ad campaign for these thin, cracker-like pretzels had a pro-anorexia message. In real life, yes, you can actually be "too thin" and die of starvation (or other medical complications associated with anorexia).

Who's writing these ad campaigns? They may be edgy and youthful, but the messages are deadly wrong. When this ad hit, many were outraged with the unhealthy message, and the advertising company promoting Pretzel Crisps ultimately pulled the ads. Whew! They listened -- but not for long. On October 11, a new Pretzel Crisps campaign was launched, and it may be even more offensive than the first campaign. This time, the tagline reads, "We're thin and stacked, so lose the old bag."

I guess the company didn't learn its lesson after its first attempt to market the product. They simply tossed around the words a bit and ended up sending the same offending message again -- with an added twist. The slogan this time implies that not only can you never be too thin, but you can also never be too busty or too young. I don't know why, but I am imagining a Barbie doll's distorted, busty and unattainable body ideal.

These ad campaigns disturb me. They can influence a person's self-esteem and body confidence, thereby fueling more eating disorders in our country. If you or anyone you know is struggling with anorexia, bulimia or binge eating, contact the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) for help.

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21 comments so far | Post a comment now
Kimberly October 21, 2010, 7:55 PM

Thanks for the outrage, sometimes I think I am the only one. My life now pivots around every bite my 12 year old takes and keeps down…

Kelly October 21, 2010, 11:13 PM

I agree with your message! I recently had a friend who felt she had to “hide” food so her boyfriend didn’t see how much she ate (not very much)and commented later to her about how much I ate (4 small slices of pizza at a buffet)! I am an ice skater, and hear comments about weight constantly. Even a coach recently told me she stopped training a girl with great potential due to her (natural and fairly small pear-shaped) build. Women are constantly hearing messages about how freakishly perfectly small we need to be, and a size 8 seems like a huge size, even though it is natural and healthy!

Ads are rarely shown with “natural” models without tons of airbrushing & use of technology. No wonder girls get eating disorders… Guys rarely hear these messages and also expect perfection from girls due to “perfect images” they see in ads & on TV constantly! Even my Asian boyfriend says he doesn’t get these guys that aren’t great-looking yet only want to date supermodels! He doesn’t come from such a “looks-obsessed” culture & I think it’s awesome! Expecting perfection from young girls makes them into insecure olders girls & young women. Advertisers need to look at who their ads really hurt…not just how many prezel bags or carrot sticks they sell. Thanks, Maggie!

Amie October 22, 2010, 6:30 AM

Sorry, I think people are taking this WAY out of proportion.

In a country where obsesity is WAY more an issue than being “too thin” I think these are just bits of clever advertising. Thin, “stacked” women are generally deemed attractive so this is just an ad playing on that concept. Period. An add saying “We’re chubby and stacked” just isn’t as appealing.

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Danny November 15, 2010, 12:21 PM

I think you are blowing this commercial out of proportion. And who are these kids that are taking eating advice from a carrot or pretzel commercial?

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