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On the 101 South freeway near San Francisco around the beginning of September, I saw a billboard that was part of Kaiser Permanente's Thrive ad campaign. It said:
Beat Obesity With A Stick
The background was hard to see until I got up close, but I figured out it was sticks of celery.

Har har.

Photo by Marilyn Wann, used by permission

As a person who has been physically and verbally abused because I am fat, I was pretty appalled at what I thought was an encouragement of violence against fat people. And if Kaiser thinks that weight loss is a simple matter of eating celery, it seemed to me that there might be non-violent ways of saying it.

People who have contacts at Kaiser complained, and according to a NAAFA press release, Kaiser said that the ad would be removed. So we initially thought that quiet activism (documented here: http://firecat.livejournal.com/559365.html) would be sufficient to address this.

But the ad is still there three weeks later. The photo was taken just last week. Apparently Kaiser and its ad agency are OK with continuing to give some people the impression that they are promoting violence against fat people and fat-hatred.

Lara Frater also blogged about this, here: http://fatchicksrule.blogs.com/fat_chicks_rule/2008/09/when-help-is-not-needed.html (Warning, there is fat-hatred in the comments.)

I'm told that relevant Kaiser executive in charge of advertising is:
Debbie Cantu
Vice President, Brand Marketing and Advertising
Kaiser Permanente
300 Lakeside Drive
Oakland CA 94611

I haven't yet decided what to say to her.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 30th, 2008 06:34 pm (UTC)
Dear Ms. Cantu:

I am given to understand that you are the person in charge of Kaiser's advertising, and specifically in charge of the "Beat Obesity with a Stick" billboard campaign that recently appeared in the Bay Area. I further understand that promises were made that these billboards would be removed due to complaints about their appearance of promoting violence against fat people; nonetheless, as of a week ago, the billboards were still up.

There are two reasons why this ad campaign makes me think ill of Kaiser:

(1) As noted, it appears to promote violence against fat people. The fact that you did not see this as a problem before running the ads gives me the impression that, as an institution, you have little sympathy or understanding of the problems that obese people face, and I would not be comfortable going to your organization about those sorts of problems -- or, were I obese, asking for any services from your organization, for fear that I would be berated for my obesity as many of my friends are when they see doctors.

(2) Furthermore, as you certainly well know, many instances of obesity are due to underlying medical causes and will not respond well to dieting -- in fact, many forms of dieting are unhealthy and can aggravate the underlying medical conditions. This advertising campaign gives me the impression that your organization is (like much of American culture) completely blind to this, and will not provide adequate treatment for obesity.

While I have already decided on my opinion of Kaiser, I would still request that you take down these billboards. They are emotionally harmful to my friends, and as you know, the stress induced by a barrage of social disapproval of this nature is harmful, unhealthy, and contributes to obesity.

- Brooks Moses
Sep. 30th, 2008 06:39 pm (UTC)
Were I to be editing this, I would add a point (3) about how these promote social disapproval of fat people and the myth that obesity is due to personal laziness and poor choices and thus that obese people should be viewed negatively for their obesity -- and that the resulting stress from a continual barrage of negative comments and judgements is a significant cause of ill health among obese people. I would possibly additionally make the claim that promoting this myth is thus morally equivalent to medical malpractice.
Sep. 30th, 2008 08:09 pm (UTC)
Dammit. Thank you for the information. I will reserve some cycles sometime this week to write a letter.
Oct. 1st, 2008 10:19 am (UTC)
I also blogged about it:


And about an amusing billboard-war rebuttal by United Behavioral Health:

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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