Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Badvertising: Special K's Newest Campaign Tells Us All The Things Fat People Are Not

Special K's new campaign slogan is simple,
"What will you gain when you lose?"
Then they ask you - the presumably hoping to lose weight reader/eater - to submit your answer in video form, and they also happily provide you with examples.

Looking to their extended campaign video Special K starts off by explaining how since they day we're born we're defined by a number. They then ask, "but is a number inspiring?" while images of weight scales and body fat callipers flash in the background.

Almost makes you think that they're about to say that you can be healthy and happy at any weight.

But of course that wouldn't sell their highly processed cereal.

To do that they need to make you feel bad about yourself.

And to accomplish that the ad goes on to explain all the things you presumably couldn't possibly be if you're fat, because you'll only gain these emotions and beliefs when you lose weight:
If you want to know the dozens of other things you can't feel or believe if you're fat, feel free to head over to their image gallery.

Way to empower women to feel comfortable and proud in their own skin.

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  1. catherine8:57 am

    Variations on this "all the things you have to gain" (i.e., all the things you can't have or be if you're fat) theme have been a big part of Special K's advertising for a while now. I've been grumbling about it to anyone who will listen for at least a year. And this spot, which I hadn't seen before, may be the worst of the bunch. That whispered "beauuuutifuuuul" at the end is just plain creepy.

  2. To be honest, coming from the angle of someone who has struggled with weight issues all her life, they are playing on exactly what many of us feel. I can't be any of those things because I am fat.

    Direct quotes from my MOM growing up.... "You are so pretty, if only you'd lose some weight" "You are so smart, if only..." "You have such a great personality, if only..." The message I took from these back-handed compliments was that nothing else matters as much as losing weight/being thin.

    They are playing to exactly what we have been told all our lives. You will never be good enough until you are thin. It is offensive but it will have lots of people buying there products as the next big thing to lose weight because you know, we are worthless until we do.

    1. Sooooo true. But really when it comes down to it no one can make you feel anything without your permission. Also it's not what happens to you but what happens IN YOU that counts (it's what you do with what happens to you). Just the knowledge of the truth and whats really going on helps immensely.
      Hold your head up and keep on keepin on.

  3. Anonymous9:38 am

    The most galling part is that Special K is nothing but sugar. They lie. This product is the last thing a person should eat to lose weight. If Special K were honest they would show the real results of eating junk carbohydrates: rotten teeth and syringes full of insulin.

    1. It's also very high in salt. I believe my sister discovered it was practically as high in sugar and salt as Nestle's Cookie Crisp. All that sugar doesn't help keep hunger at bay either - you get a big high of insulin and then 20 minutes later, your hungry again. Porridge is far better for you IMHO

  4. Anonymous9:52 am

    Actually, Special K original has fairly low sugar. 4g of 22g carbs total in 31g. It also has 7g protein, which is pretty good. But I dislike the fact that it has less than 1g of fiber, and I will not waste my time on cereals without fiber in them.

    I lost 73 pounds last year before loosing the hounds at Christmas. I am back on track now and have lost half the weight I put back on, leaving me about 10 pounds from my lowest last year.

    I can attest to the fact that pretty much all of the thoughts and feelings that they show in their campaign are accurate, but I also feel that it is the height of arrogance and condescension to actually use them in that kind of campaign. The people to whom they are marketing Special K will not be well served by munching on that cereal as their savior, because without fiber they are not going to feel full at breakfast. And that is rather fatal to the whole program.

    But somehow these messages need to get out to the obese population, because it is definitely attainable. And the feelings they indicate do emerge as the weight is lost. I'm only half way to mu ultimate goal, and the difference is already night and day.

    I wish I knew what the alternatives were. Big Food will always alternate between creating the problem and then taking advantage of the most vulnerable. Profit is a powerful motive, after all. So how can we get governing bodies to make sure that people are better served by this industry? And while we are at it, we should address the fitness industry too.

    1. Bobbini10:44 am

      "But somehow these messages need to get out to the obese population..."

      Believe me when I tell you that those of us who are fat know that we're supposed to feel less-than. We know our accomplishments, ideas and goals are meaningless unless they include weight loss. Special K isn't the only--or loudest--source of that message.

      Until women STOP believing that message, we will continue to neglect our actual health in pursuit of a number on a scale; we will continue to be hobbled in our working and personal lives by the feeling that we are just not good enough because we don't weigh X.

    2. Anonymous7:27 pm

      I eat eggs, bacon, and leftover steak, fish, or chicken with no fiber whatsoever and I've never been overweight in the slightest. Fiber is useless.

  5. Anonymous2:17 pm

    This is slightly off topic but the ad you posted made me think of this ad which I saw before the previews when I went to the movies yesterday:
    I don't know if this ad has been featured in your 'Badvertising' section yet, but I was slack-jawed with disbelief after viewing it.

    1. I did not see anything offensive about that ad. Given your review I was expecting to see one of the little kids say "Mom, please lose weight so you don't die." It's true that many mothers will put the needs of their families ahead of their own, including attending to their own health.

  6. I wrote a blog post about this ad campaign myself a couple of weeks ago. I consider it one of the most insidiously shame-driven campaigns I've ever seen. Blame Chicago's own Leo Burnett for what I have admit is a truly ingenious way of making women feel they are being honored when they're really being insulted. A lot of people won't realize they're not being told they're "more than a number," they're being told they show valuable character traits only when they've successfully completed the Special K Challenge.

  7. I think they are doing what most of the businesses do to push their product into market through advertisements. Most of them play with our guilt, trying to belittle us in a subtle manner, so that there is hordes of inferior feeling and guilty ridden people, making a beeline to buy their products.

  8. Yep, Big Food continues to co-opt messages that might otherwise put them out of business. They stole the non-# scale, by the way, from Marilyn Wann, a San Fran-based fat activist. I wrote more about this, and other messed up things re obesity, here:

  9. I'd have to say that anything promoting "health" that comes from a box probably will not solve anything for the overweight. If you truly want to lose weight, then choose real food you have to prepare and just move more everyday. The less processed the better.