Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Latex and lunches

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Do not adjust your sets.

Yes, this is TV celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and, no, he hasn't been digging into a little too much of his own "pukka tukka".

Jamie is publicising his follow-up to "Jamie's School Dinners", his series in which he persuades British schools to ditch processed, ready-made junk food and replace it with fresh, tasty, nutritious food, prepared from scratch every day.

By putting on a latex fat suit, walking around laden with boxes of junk food, he's hoping to drive home a message about the evils of fatty food. In the scene in the photo above, his trademark Vespa collapses under the burden of his weight.

Jamie is certainly commended for his efforts to transform the notorious British school dinner (spam fritter, anyone?) into a healthier option but is this an appropriate way to do it? It certainly has the potential to alienate or offend some people.

More importantly, healthy eating is about so much more than weight loss and this approach runs the risk of making that the sole focus.

Having said that, Jamie is a fun guy and, certainly, humour can sometimes get a serious message over better than the use of shock tactics. Compare this to the current anti-smoking campaign, highlighting mouth cancer (advertising image shown below). A common response to this kind of campaign is simply avoidance through switching the television channel.

So, Jamie. Funny or offensive? Effective or just a plain joke?

What do you think?

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Oliver sets up fat suit warning


Sarebear said...

I've been thinking about these sort of campaigns, and "extreme truth" advertising, for awhile now. By extreme truth, I mean showing the horrid reality of that oral cancer, or the car commercials I've seen lately, like one by Jetta, where it shows two people in a car, driving along, having a conversation, and then BAM, they're in a wreck. The camera doesn't change it shows the oncoming car or whatever, real-time, and the wreck, in the ones I've seen, the passenger view, from behind their shoulder . . . the quickly inflating front and side-curtain airbags (so quick that it seems instantaneous), and everything that happens in the first few seconds of impact . . .

I think these type of extreme truth adverts can be and are traumatizing. I've never been in a wreck more than a 10-15 mph hit, and that just once, and never had airbags deploy. And still these commercials, they are like a knife to the gut and heart. Imagine what those are like for people who've been in bad accidents, and don't know the commercial to recognize it and change before it gets bad.

People need to know the consequences of various actions, like smoking, chewing tobacco, drunk driving, etc., but I think some lines get crossed to far or in ways that could be still conveyed without the gut-wrenching factor.

Then again, I suspect the gut-wrenching factor is THE point of some or all of these ads/campaigns . . . but, there are some extreme truths that people DON'T WANT TO SEE, say when they are watching a sitcom, or LOST, or some other thing. It jars you to a place you don't want to go. I'm fine with uncomfortable ads, but extremely disturbing ones, I feel, it's almost as though they go from PG to R-rated, in terms of what they do for/to me, psychologically. You know? It goes overboard on the vivid graphicness of it . . .

Yes, we can turn off the TV, but I think we should not have to constantly fear graphic and disturbing images, during daytime and early evening television, anyhoo.

NYPDBlue used to show Dennis Franz's naked butt, but at least that was after 9pm . . .

As far as Jamie Oliver, there's a good point, but it SEEMS to me from what you've described, that it will be more stigmatizing of the overweight, that it will promote negative thinking about the very sight of and assumed behavior of overweight people, than is a good thing to do.

It will, it seems to me, reinforce the stuffing ones' faces with junk food, jiggling "supposed to be disgusting" overweight flesh/man walking around, to jar people into avoiding that.

I'm all for healthy eating, but it seems there might be a trying to "disgust" people into not "pigging out" on junk food . . .

And so I think it does more harm than good, IMHO.

Dr. A said...

No matter what type of ad, you're going to offend someone. People will correct me if I'm wrong, but the goal of an ad is to get attention -- good or bad. This can cut both ways, though.

Da Vinci Code: Millions of people across the world are offended, but still sells millions of books. (There's debate on the crossover success to the movie)

War of The Worlds: The whole "Tom Cruise is nuts" thing really has the world a buzz, but the attention backfired and did not turn into ticket sales.

As far as the "in your face" ads for anti-smoking, are they offensive? Yes. Do they spark discussion? Yes. Do they actually help people stop smoking? That debate is still raging on.

psychgrad said...

I didn't see what Jamie did with his boxes of junk food, so it's hard to judge whether what he did was worth the shock value and potential offense to others.

There was a pretty big commotion about some Australian anti-smoking commercials that showed tar being squeezed out of your esophogus...Our cigarette packages show really disgusting pictures (like the one at the bottom of your post). If the goal of these ads is to be memorable, they definitely achieve these goals. It may be offensive to a smoker to have to see those images, but if it prevents someone else from smoking or makes someone think twice, I think it's a good idea.

I think my issue would be more with using shocking ads to sell your product in particular. To me the Jetta ads seem like less of a warning in safety and more about selling their products in particular. Not very ultruistic.

healthpsych said...

Hi Sarebear,

We have the same kind of car accident prevention adds in Australia. There's been a lot of discussion about them online - how they're unsuitable viewing, how they make people uncomfortable. Most relate either to speeding or driver fatigue? Are they successful? The statistics would seem to say not, particularly with younger people.

The gut wrenching ads - yes, I take your point. I actually found this ad from 2005 to be much more thought provoking.

"Quitting is hard, not quitting is harder"


The Jamie Oliver thing - yes, I think the offensiveness of it lies in the making a joke out of it - having the Vespa collapse, making the overweight person a figure of fun, to be laughed at, in spite of good intentions.

Oh, and as for Dennis Franz's naked butt....scary viewing indeed!

Dear Dr. A,

Point taken. It certainly has generated a lot of attention for the show.

I think the research here (and forgive me for not having it to hand) is that while the graphic anti-smoking ads have a degree of success, with time people just become immune to the shock value of those images or simply ignore them. That's why I like the ad campaign listed in my reply to Sarebear. Much more thought stimulating IMHO.

Hi Psychgrad,

Yes, that artery ad really caused a bit of a storm. The strong of stomach can see it here:


In fact that site hosts most of the anti-smoking campaigns used in Australia for those interested.

I haven't seen the Jetta ad so I can't comment. Do I take it that's a VW ad then rather than a health promotion/safety thing? If so, it sounds out of line to me.

Sorry for not knowing how to create links in comments!!!

NakedTomato said...

I'm with Dr. A on this one. No matter what is done, someone somewhere will always be offended. So why not to something that grabs attention?

Honestly, it's a TV series. If one finds it offensive, all they have to do is turn it off. Just think: if people put half as much energy into thinking about the AIDS epidemic as they put into thinking about things as trivial as Jamie Oliver's fat suit, we'd have a cure by now. *Sigh*

PS: I love Jamie Oliver...he's just cute as a button!

Sarebear said...

Yeah, it's an ad to sell the car. I've seen two different ads now, for it, I'm not sure they are both Jetta, though.

I suppose, since alot of people are unfamiliar with the concept of a side-curtain airbag, that the side-impact one that highlights that, might educate, but really the ads aren't for that.

And, in fact, they both show the people, perfectly ok without a scratch, and seemingly not in pain, but shaken up, outside the car afterwards.

Accidents are not neat and tidy like that . . . my MIL got in an accident a few months back, and the airbag went off, which was good, but those things also bruise you mightily (which is much better than not having the airbag, pretty much). Like BADLY. And she had a cracked rib, which might have been from the airbag. Then again, she's shorter than average, much.

But she had bruises all over, had pain all over, all sorts of other stuff. In the majority of accidents like the ones pictured, I'd venture to say that you wouldn't just be scratchless and painless and "Thanking Jetta for building such a good car" or some such.

And, it might create a false impression that you will generally be ok in an accident. Might even, I would think, make someone a little more careless. The accidents in the commercial, are staged (although I'd guess, based on actual data from tests), and probably based on carefully controlled variables . . . that's if the ad is even that trustworthy to go to those measures.

Woops, sorry to go off on one, there.

Sarebear said...

nakedtomato, it's commercials that you never know when they pop up, and the only way to avoid is to never have the tv on, which is an option for some, but . . .

healthpsych said...

Hi Nakedtomato,

Still laughing over parts of your blog!

Certainly true about the magic "OFF" button in terms of the show and about more important things to put energy into.

However, some people are obviously more sensitive than others to this issue and there's some further discussion over at BigFatBlog



healthpsych said...

Hi Sarebear,

I guess that could definitely lure people into a false sense of security in terms of accidents. We have similar ads. here but they are definitely a health promotional message and not tied directly to any particular vehicle.

NakedTomato said...

*Whispering because I know this is terribly off topic*

Before I moved to a big city and sold my car in favor of using the subway system, I drove a yellow VW. It was snowy and icey in the middle of winter and after hitting a rather large patch of ice, I hit a telephone pole at 35mph. The car was ruined but I walked away with nothing more than a bruise on my shoulder :o)

I understand the reasoning in the comments, just thought I'd share!

Alison said...

The anti-smoking ads for me just sealed the whole thing. I have lost count of how many times I've tried to give up smoking, but when these ads came out (and having my kids see them on cig packs), well it took about 2 weeks for me to stop. This time I'm just tired of it and those photo's are just horrible. Maybe I would have stopped again without them, maybe not. But they've had a resonating effect on me in any case.

Jamie Oliver - I can't really comment on since I turn off the TV whenever he comes on!!!

healthpsych said...

Hi Nakedtomato,

*whispering back because this is off-topic..not that I care!!! :) *

That is indeed testament to the body of the VW.

I drive VWs too and, while I have yet to have a tangible reason to appreciate the bodywork (thankfully), I certainly feel better knowing it's there.

Hi Alison,
It's good to hear that the ads. do work then. Maybe it's all us non-smokers that are doing the channel flicking? Don't you think that the current ads are much cleverer though - the "Quitting is hard, not quitting is harder?"

fjl said...

I think it'd have been alot more effective if he'd actually put on the weight. People will instantly compare this 'stunt' to those who go to extremes for real to make a point.

healthpsych said...

I agree, FJL. It's a stunt and it's making fun of being obese. No kid wants to be made fun of so I guess from that point of view, some might argue that it might be a motivator but I just think there has to be a better way to get the message over rather than making it simply about size.