This panel is not the only place I’ve been hearing suggestions for taking on the Big Ag ad behemoth. As the recent documentary Fed-Up–which focuses on childhood obesity and points a finger at policymakers (read our interview with producer Laurie David here)–recently reminded us, in 1967, Big Tobacco was required to share equal time on-air with PSAs on the scientifically proven negative health impacts of smoking. Eventually all television and radio ads for tobacco were banned in 1971.
Fed-Up’s solution for food: When celebrities use their fame for a product endorsements for soda or processed foods, they should also have to create a PSA for a fruit or vegetable, which is similar to what WildAid has sought to do.
This got me thinking: What if popular athletes like Serena Williams and Shaquille O’Neal were required to hype salad like they hype sugary beverages? Beyoncé has lent her celebrity to the likes of Pepsi in exchange for $50 million, but suppose she endorsed fruit instead? Her video for the First Lady’s Let’s Move campaign, in which she eats an apple, has already received over 30 million views online, while her Pepsi ad/music video “Mirrors”garnered less than half of that.
A sexy star, a catchy beat, or a visually engaging narrative can teach us how and what to eat, and works to counter the years of advertising for the sodas and packaged food that we are currently mostly consuming. A clear takeaway from this panel was that the good food messaging machine has what it takes to counter the spin machine of corporate agriculture.
Aside from forward-thinking corporations seeking to use profits to promote messages about good food, the question remains: Will they have the bucks to compete? Perhaps in the not-so-distant future we will be seeing more PSAs funded from the coffers of the junk food manufacturers themselves and perhaps even a wide scale ban on these ads altogether.
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