When obesity ads shock

In the wake of NY's revolting fat-guzzling video, a look at the best and worst YouTube health spots

By Thomas Rogers
December 16, 2009 12:16AM (UTC)
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It’s fair to say that most New York City subway riders are a fairly hard bunch to shock ("What’s that guy doing in the corner? Just peeing in his knapsack.") but even by those standards the city’s recent anti-soda subway ad campaign, showing fat pouring out of pop cans, was still pretty darn disgusting. The campaign, begun in late summer, aims to teach people about the health danger of drinking too much soda – and yesterday it came out with an even more disturbing video ad, which has since gone viral:


Although it leaves a rather, um, unsettled sensation in our stomachs, it’s hard to argue with the ad’s effectiveness – rarely have I felt less like drinking a can of soda, or, for that matter, eating gravy. We decided to round up some past examples of anti-obesity ad winners – along with some losers that just don’t get the message right.


This highly effective Australian PSA uses CGI to show, in real time, how a lifetime of bad decisions can take a toll on a person’s health. If there was an awards category for most impressive anti-obesity special effects, this one has it in the bag.


This surprisingly tense Mediawise spot takes on child obesity and video games – with a creepy payoff and a child actor that really nails the video-game dead-eye.

The Ad Council’s cutesy ad campaign touts the physical advantages of exercise with a series of gags about losing body parts. It may not have the shock value of a gallon of fat – but, on the up side, it actually manages to make us laugh.



How not to convince children to eat better food? Start a campaign to replace the sundae with a "Saturday" – and make it look like a penis nestled in a bowl of foam.

These bizarre Thai health ads promoting what must be extraordinarily ineffective forms of exercise are bathed with such a sickly blue glow (and, in one case, a depressing suicide plot) that it just makes us want to lie down on the couch with a bottle of Pepto Bismol.


This 80’s public service announcement teaches parents to shower their kids in love, not cookies – but its kid-friendly cartoon format probably caused a generation of children to eat their way through their parents’ divorce.

Thomas Rogers

Thomas Rogers is Salon's former Arts Editor. He has written for the Globe & Mail, the Village Voice and other publications. He can be reached at @thomasmaxrogers.

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Advertising Food Food Tube Obesity