CDC To Launch New Childhood Exercise Advertising Campaign Next Week
The CDC's new nationwide advertising campaign aimed at promoting exercise among children will debut next week, the Wall Street Journal reports. The $125 million effort, which is aimed at children ages nine through 13, will emphasize action verbs that are related to activity and exercise, will depict young people in "real situations" and may incorporate celebrities (Vranica, Wall Street Journal, 7/18). The ads, which feature the tag line "VERB. It's what you do," feature computer-generated, child-like figures formed out of the letters of action words. The ads will air on youth-oriented stations, including Nickelodeon and MTV, and eventually will appear on billboards, in magazines and in other media outlets. The campaign also has its own Web site at www.verbnow.com (California Healthline, 7/1). The effort was created to combat childhood obesity. CDC statistics indicate that 14% of teens and 13% of children ages six to 11 were overweight in 1999 (Wall Street Journal, 7/18). "Our goal is for the VERB campaign to motivate and inspire our children to get active and involved -- and to have fun doing so. ... We need to get our children away from the PlayStation and onto the playground. By doing so, our children will live healthier and grow into stronger adults," HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said (HHS release, 7/17).
However, some consumer advocates say that simply emphasizing exercise is not enough to curb childhood obesity because children are constantly exposed to fast food advertisements and products. "The average American child sees 10,000 food advertisements a year on TV, and 95% of those are for fast food, soft drinks, candy or sugar cereals," Kelly Brownell, a professor of psychology at Yale University and director of Yale's Center for Eating and Weight Disorders, said. Brownell said he believes the CDC is "avoiding" the issue of children's eating habits because it "doesn't want to offend the powerful food industry," adding, "When you are pushing physical activity you have no enemies. If you are trying to change the diet of America, you have massive enemies." Commercial Alert, a public advocacy group, added that there is a conflict of interest present in the CDC campaign because the agency hired Publicis Groupe's Frankel, a marketing firm that does work for McDonald's, to handle the campaign's marketing. Michael Greenwell, communications director for the CDC's Chronic Disease Center, said that the agency selected Frankel because it wanted a marketing agency with a "proven track record" in reaching its target age group. Greenwell added that the CDC may expand the campaign to include messages that promote healthy eating habits (Wall Street Journal, 7/18).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.