6 December 2009

human stupidity: nature or nurture Pt 1

Back in winter, some train station advertising made me wonder if there weren't larger forces at work to push us that bit further into complete loss of cognitive function, coupled with total dissatisfaction with our corporeal selves. The first is a series that seem to be showing the consequences of getting too close to trains. The slogans we simply mind-numbingly obvious tinged with totally patronising. Like this gem:

"getting caught in the door will hurt" - accompanying a photo of a guy in a suit with his arm, holding a briefcase, sticking out of the door.

Other ones were about prams on the platform and about crossing the tracks. I mean puhlease. That there is a hundreds of tonnes of metal hurtling into a station on electrified tracks isn't enough to encourage people to be careful? Is the logic in the comms strategy meeting (and I've been to a few, dear readers) that - if people were just to know the consequences of running to the those closing metal doors - then they wouldn't do it? If you can't work that out after the first time to see them actually shut, then you're an idiot and you deserve the bruise to teach you.

And the second one was part of the federal government's "How do you measure up" campaign, runnning with this beautiful bit of creative:

The full caption is, wait for it, "are you on your way towards chronic disease? I was confronted with this poor guy every day when I hit the bottom of the station escalators. Looks like the campaign is encouraging people to measure their waist as a trigger to lose weight to save themselves from SUDDEN DEATH.

It's been a while since I ranted here, but can I just say.. "what the hell?" I mean really, is this actually a real health issue? Or is this social conditioning out of control? Losing weight is so the new religion, Dicko did it, Madga did it, Mikey Robbins did it, it's highly trendy and a public rite of passage for fat celebs in the Emerald City. But, really, are we just compliant in shifting the global marketing coup of making women hate their earthly form - to our men? Is the health department playing into the hands of those big corporates who can shift more product if the general populace feels a little melancholy about those few extra kilos, the love handles and the muffin tops? It's not just diet programs and home gyms and such.. when consumers constantly feel like shit, everyone wins - from chocolate ice-cream to cars to beer to diamond earrings to flat screen TVs - anything to make you feel like you might satiate that longing for a perfect life.

Now, I'm going to come out of the closet on this one.

I reckon that guy in the poster could be eminently shaggable. He's so far from a hideous fatty it's laughable. I, for one, probably wouldn't turn him down, if he was funny, smart, playful, or perhaps had a love of cinema or could teach me a language, or was into body art or any bloody thing that wasn't about his goddam waistline. I bet the actual model has a happy marriage and a couple of kids who he takes to Nippers swim club every Sunday at crack of dawn and remembers to put the bins out every week. Jesus, he could be a Judo champ with that physique. I hope he got a decent pay packet for that ad is all I'm saying. For the humiliation of having to push another cack-handed attempt of the government to tell us we could get a bit crook if we eat junk and don't exercise.

I want to do a new station advertising campaign.

If you read this poster every day you will turn into a complete moron. THINK FOR YOURSELF.
(Authorised by the NSW government.)


meririsa said...

Getting adults to lose weight actually is an important issue, I know this from my job before the last one in a public-health area. Look at the stats on adult obesity (2/3 of adults in Australia are overweight or something like that!!), and when you take into account that obesity *leads to* (no "ifs" here) problems like diabetes and heart disease AND the fact that one of the largest population cohorts (baby boomers) are reaching old age... and presto - one HUGE burden on the health system. That's why the big fuss about losing weight. This TV campaign was trying to get people to think about their habits now and how they might lead to them being overweight in 5, 10, 15, 20 years time. The poster campaign you saw in the train station probably was there to remind people of the TV campaign, not as a stand alone campaign...

BSharp said...

hello lisa! good to see someone still reading out there in blog land.. : )

I'm sure all that stuff is true. I'm even trying to whittle off a couple of kilos myself - basically so I'm not single for the rest of my life.

But I'm still ragging on these ads. It's the choice of image and tagline that shit me to tears. And yep, even though they link back to a TVC, they are still designed to have impact on their own. In this case, I reckon the doughy guy in his boxers taps into those feelings of not being "quite right", of being a bit gross, in the way he's exposed and slightly forlorn. The campaign slogan "How do you measure up?" has a strong double meaning, entirely on purpose, as in "..to other healthier/fitter/more gorgeous people.. "

I am 100% certain that for middle aged men to actually lose weight makes them feel better, fitter, and more able to take part in their families' lives.

I just wanted go against the not-so-subtle undercurrent here about attractiveness and say - hey! I'd go that guy. If he was an awesome dude.

Clearly if they ran ads focussing on the benefits to losing some tummy padding, e.g. showing a healthy dad playing footy with his kids, it wouldn't have the same emotional impact of something that makes you feel a bit guilty and worried. and FAT. Hence the post title - we are quite stupid creatures really, and ads of all kinds tap into that to try to push their program or sell their stuff.

And its worthy of the occasional rant.

meririsa said...

Totally agree about being talked down to - for e.g. I'm often warned to keep plastic bags away from children because they pose a choking hazard - duh!
But I suppose with the obesity campaign they are following the same tack as the anti smoking campaigns. Overeating once may not do you harm but if you keep doing it etc. I suppose they wouldn't run public health campaigns like this unless they found they had been effective in the past. I wasn't thinking about how attractive/unattractive the guy was - but yes there certainly is a doughy quality to him.
And are we being spoken down to in this particular case? I dunno. We as a society are doing something wrong if 2/3 of us are overweight - far more of concern than "body image" if you ask me. And I think a lot of us are in denial about our size.
HOWEVER I think the govt could possibly do better by building more public transport routes so we aren't all car-reliant and walk more for a start... it's our sprawling suburbs that are largely to blame...

alison said...

There is one of these posters outside the supermarket I go to, with "how does your trolley measure up". Great placement, but I am not sure about pushing all the responsibility onto the consumer.

To me the posters are saying "it's all your fault you're fat and ugly, you slob" - and with the supermarket one, there's nothing to make you change your behaviour once you go into the supermarket.

meririsa said...

How hypocritacal!
My local branch of the supermarket duopoly has actually expanded its fresh food section, removed most lollies from the check-out area, and contracted the confectionary section. I know some groups have been lobbying them to do this kind of thing - not sure if it's taking effect, or just a result of this particular area's demographic... Nice to be pleasantly suprised for a change.

J said...

yes you've gotta think that some hard core systemic changes like how food is advertised to children, what is available for sale in schools and hospitals, basic nutrition education, supporting people to have better work-life balance so they can get to the park to kick the ball around, and a generally cultural overhaul to make raw fruit and vegetables, nuts and grains seem 'attractive' rather than the strong focus on energy dense foods as 'treats' would help.
I think focusing campaigns on 'you can get healthy - and here's why you might want to and here's where to get help to do it' might be a better motivator than 'look at dough boy - he sucks', but like MR figure that maybe they have done market research that has convinced them to go the way they have?
I think it's also relevant to recognise the emotional dimension to our relationship to food - being overweight can be so many things - a buffer, a deadener, a disguise, a 'fuck you', a desexualising cocoon... these can be important survival considerations psychologically too. So... we want happy, emotionally supported people, with access to fresh foods with good cooking and eating habits and freedom from insidious advertising of less healthy choices, and active fulfilling lifestyles? And does this ad help with that? Not sure. Maybe the ad is less a useful tool of change and more a collective crying out of recognising a problem.

NB BSharp, re the attractiveness issue, a 40'sish lady got on my bus last night, with a t-shirt clad podgy belly hanging slightly out over her waist band, hair escaping from her ponytail AND she had a delightful, adventuresome, happy face, looked bright and cheery, and I was struck by how much this thing of attitude makes or breaks attractiveness. She looked like someone you would actually want to have a conversation with, or have an adventure with, rather than the many pinched faced, groomed and snippy looking inner westy ladies of the same age that often grace my bus - more 'fit' and certainly thinner but sour looking. I think happiness itself helps people be healthier and prevent disease.