A recent segment on National Public Radio caught my attention, enough so that I went online to learn more about the issue. The topic was a current advertising campaign targeting childhood obesity in Georgia. Through billboards and television ads, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s “Strong4Life” campaign is intended to shock the general public into understanding the gravity of Atlanta’s childhood obesity problems.

Linda Matzigkeit, vice president of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, says nearly one million children in Georgia are overweight or obese. She went on to say “This is a medical crisis, and I say if you don’t believe me, come visit our hospital and see the kids we are now taking care of – that more and more have type 2 diabetes, hypertension, need knee replacements – and it’s breaking our heart to see these adult-type diseases in the children we serve.”

However some feel the campaign is cruel, relying on scare tactics that may be too harsh for their audience. NPR interviewed Rodney Lyn of Georgia State University’s Institute of Public Health who said based on his research, the ads can hurt the market they’re targeting.
When I went to Strong4Life’s Facebook page to take a look at their recent wall postings, I saw maybe a total of one positive reaction to the campaign. Most were “shame on you” and “dehumanizing campaign” comments.

As a marketer, I can see that this campaign has reached at least one goal: it’s been getting an incredible (albeit somewhat negative) amount of reaction which is therefore spreading the campaign even farther. However, as an individual, I do wonder if the results of this scare-tactic campaign will be truly effective in raising awareness and modifying behavior.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Does this campaign hit home or just hit too hard?