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New Fad — Shame- and Blame-Based Ad Campaigns

January 30, 2012

It turns out that Strong4Life’s shame and blame based ad campaign isn’t alone.

Today, while reading news on the internet, my husband found a story about an ad campaign in New York. This one targets adults, which makes it only marginally better than the one in Georgia that targets children.  However, this one is just as skeevy.It seems that the City of New York Department of Health had posters connecting portion sizes and diabetes. In the top of the poster, a man is posed sitting on a stool, huddled over with a defiant look on his face. The photo is in black and white with the grey background we’ve come to love in the Strong4Life’s campaign. On the bottom, the same man in the same pose missing his right leg just at the knee, and crutches are leaning on the grey wall behind him. In front, in color, are three fast food drink cups from small to large with the caption “Portions have grown. So has Type 2 Diabetes which can lead to amputations.”

Now, part of the problem with this ad campaign is that, well, just like with the Strong4Life campaign, the people who thought this was a good idea didn’t care if they lied.

First, the man in the picture did NOT have an amputation, the image was digitally altered to take off his leg at the knee. Second, they don’t know if the man actually, you know, has diabetes. Third, the photo company they got the man’s photo from doesn’t even know the man’s name, according to the New York Times:

When city officials announced the campaign on Jan. 9, they did not let on that the man shown — whose photo came from a company that supplies stock images to advertising firms and others — was not an amputee and may not have had diabetes. The city did not identify the man, and efforts to reach the agency that supplied the photo were unsuccessful. The photographer who took the picture, Morten Smidt, said he did not know the man’s name.

“City officials said those advertisements were testimonials that showed real people and real consequences.”  Really?  “But they said that doing so was not always feasible.”  Oh wait, except when they can’t find anybody who had actually lost limbs from diabetes to participate in an ad campaign that shames them for being such a bad person and bringing this on themselves.

“Sometimes we use individuals who are suffering from the particular disease; other times we have to use actors,” said John Kelly, a health department spokesman. “We might stop using actors in our ads if the food industry stops using actors in theirs.”

Because hiring actors to sell food and fun is totes the same as buying the picture of a man you don’t even know the name of, digitally altering that photo, and lying about his health status to sell the idea of how bad you are for eating too much and not exercising enough.

Oh, yeah.  TOTALLY the same.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. January 30, 2012 11:45 am

    nyt actually found the original actor. here is the link to the article…i encourage everyone to go read and comment fat positively. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/30/nyregion/man-in-diabetes-ad-says-he-is-shocked.html?_r=1

  2. Duckie Graham permalink
    January 30, 2012 12:44 pm

    Cleo Berry, we need to get that guy on an I Stand poster!

  3. vesta44 permalink
    January 30, 2012 2:38 pm

    John Kelly, a spokesman for the health department, said in a statement: “This issue isn’t about one actor but rather the 700,000 New Yorkers who struggle with diabetes, which kills 1,700 people a year and causes amputations in another 3,000. Advertising to warn the public about health concerns saves lives, and we will continue our efforts to warn New Yorkers about diabetes.”

    Well now, Mr Kelly, I have a couple of questions for you. How many of those 1,700 people that type 2 diabetes supposedly “kills” every year have medical insurance that diagnosed their T2D and treated it correctly? How many of those 3,000 that supposedly had amputations “caused” by T2D had medical insurance and doctors that correctly treated their T2D? If they didn’t have insurance through a job, or didn’t qualify for medical assistance, then you’re expecting them to pay for treatment for T2D out of their own pockets. And that’s not exactly an inexpensive proposition, let me tell you. Medications alone are expensive – not just the oral medications, but insulin too. Then there are test strips, lab tests, doctor visits, visits with a case manager/dietitian, etc. And you expect people who can barely afford to put food on the table, clothes on their backs, and a roof over their heads to pay for this expensive care out of pocket? Yeah, right. And then you blame these people because they’re dying of T2D or having limbs amputated because of a “lifestyle disease”. Check your privilege, Mr Kelly, check your privilege.

    • Rubyfruit permalink
      January 31, 2012 10:30 am

      This, so much. I wonder how many people with T2D die from lack of a diagnosis of a lack of treatment, rather than the “not caring” that people like Mr. Kelly seem to portay it as. That…and it’s kind of scary that someone could alter someone else’s image and use it in a way that is, for lack of nicer words, unsettling.

  4. January 30, 2012 3:17 pm

    이것 뭐예요 (i-gaw mwo-yeyo) is the most useful phrase I’ve yet learned in Korean. Depending on tone, it can either be used as “What is this?” “What are you doing?” or “WHAT THE FUCK!”

    Take a guess which tone I used on reading this.

  5. Rubyfruit permalink
    January 31, 2012 10:21 am

    I think I saw that on Yahoo! News (if you go there, avoid reading the comments), and my first response was “The flying fuck?! I’d sue them for using my image like that!”.

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