California agency under fire for faked fat-girl photo

A state anti-soda ad used an altered image of the child to make her look obese. One critic calls it a 'public hate message.'

By Aimee Picchi Jun 10, 2013 2:10PM

Original and Photoshopped images from First 5 California ads (Marilyn Wann via Facebook, new anti-soda advertising campaign from a California agency is coming under fire for tweaking the image of a little girl to make her appear obese, in what some are calling a "creepy" Photoshopping misstep. 

The ad comes from First 5, a state agency that's dedicated to improving the health of California's children and their families. But some people are crying foul over its recent campaign against sugary drinks like juice, soda and sports beverages, saying it does more harm than good.

Using images of obese kids is a contentious issue. Public health experts note that the effort is counterproductive and ends up ostracizing overweight children even more.

But the shock value of the California ad is just what the agency was aiming for.

"The ad was intended to show parents the real-life consequences of obesity and what sugar can do to our children’s lives," said agency spokeswoman Lindsay Van Laningham, according to the Daily Mail. 

The ad is just the latest volley against sugary drinks and soda made by companies such as Coca-Cola (KO). New York City Mayor Bloomberg is known for his long-standing war against sugar-filled drinks, and just last week the city started a new $1.4 million campaign to persuade people to turn to water. It includes one spot that shows a chubby boy drinking from a juice box.

Kids shouldn't be featured in such ads because they deliver "public hate messages," wrote Marilyn Wann, the author of the book "Fat!So?: Because You Don't Have to Apologize for Your Size," on Tumblr.

"Children deserve to be protected from this kind of damaging fearmongering. (And from creepy Photoshopping!)," she added.

Another issue with the campaign is that First 5 appears to have little supporting information on its own website for kids who want to learn more about healthy eating, points out Laura Beck on Jezebel. Some pages haven't been updated in four years, while others are only placeholders. 

Beck notes, "Seriously, you guys? If you're gonna go out of your way to pay for ads that belittle and humiliate children, at least pretend to offer a solution."

Follow Aimee Picchi on Twitter at @aimeepicchi

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Jun 10, 2013 3:37PM
I am so sick of people trying to blame McDonalds or Coca Cola or someone, anyone, for the fact that people are fatter today than they used to be. People don't eat any more than they used to, but they ride in cars more now, instead of walking, they have self propelled lawn mowers and snow blowers instead of push mowers and shovels. You would be surprised how much one can eat and not gain an ounce, if one is physically active, that's the problem, stop trying to find someone to blame, if you're overweight it's your fault.
Jun 10, 2013 3:49PM
I, as a fat person, agree that there is a problem in this world. It starts at home. Parents need to take responsibility for what their children eat. If this is the way to get their attention, then do it! Stop whining about the "abuse" of over weight people and do something to make it better. If that something is making children aware that they are hurting themselves with the way they eat- do it! It is way easier for a parent to tell a child no than for a 40-ish person to drop the extra pounds that have been there since childhood. Teach them young.
Jun 10, 2013 3:43PM

What about all of the men, women and children that are photo shopped to be skinny????  That never draws any criticism.  


Jun 10, 2013 4:01PM
Seriously? Are you people seriously so pussy-fed that you actually believe that this is harmful in some way? Boo-hoo some kid might get their feelings hurt by an ad? How badly do you think it's gonna hurt when the same kid has to have a leg sawed off from being diabetic? Or the whole host of all medical problems that are haunting us all today. 

You're seriously worried about some kid's feelings when what you should be worried about is that child's health. How ignorant. What a way to prioritize and send the right message. No wonder we have this obesity problem. You have no will power to tell yourselves 'no' at the desert table, and get all huffy when someone tries to step up and save our children.  We have an opportunity to change our fate in this country, but instead the whack jobs have to turn it into a political debate. I imagine from what I have read here that if I was to stick my arm down a well to save a trapped child it would be touted as some liberal commie plot to keep children alive.

I agree that some image messages are wrong. Telling girls that they all have to be a size zero is wrong, and the like. But wake up and get real here, peeps.  We are killing ourselves with the food of today. Sugar is more addicting and they are learning it may be more dangerous than nicotine, alcohol and many drugs. We've become so addicted to the poisons in our food today that we will allow it to rule us to the point of addicting our children. Another generation lost. We say big is beautiful, but no it isn't. Or let me guess, you are big boned or have a glandular problem. Guess what, less than one percent of the population has a medical cause for their size. The rest is poor planning, poor diet. Poor exercise and, really, a lot of laziness.

Stop making excuses. Stop cursing the people who are just trying to help. No one is forcing anyone to do anything, they are only trying to open people's eyes to some real dangers in our choices. No commie plot. Sorry. No one gives a damn about Timmy's image either, not when it comes to his health.  And if that's not enough, think about this:  Like with smokers, most of the health problems generated from these poor, sugar charged diets are paid for by the public tax dollar. An astronomical amount that could be better used else where if only we countered a glass of water over a cola

When I was 400 pounds, I made all the same excuses, and lived the same horrible life.  I'm now 250 and though I am still over weight, I've stopped blaming and lying and my life has only gotten better.  You can change if you want, but you must first stop the blaming. Embrace truth. Get strong and for God's sake do everything you can to save the children from you failures!

Jun 10, 2013 3:45PM

I think that the add gets to the point. The point being that we can chose what we give our children and that choice affects their lives. We as a society need to stop being so sensitive.


It doesn't humiliate anyone specific as the girl was photo shopped and not actually obese which I suppose would then be more approaching the line of bad taste.


The lady at the end of the artical who pointed out  "Seriously, you guys? If you're gonna go out of your way to pay for ads that belittle and humiliate children, at least pretend to offer a solution." um.. the choice is totally there. It's up to us as parents to realize that. We have the solution- moderation.

Jun 10, 2013 3:19PM
Time to get rid of First 5! We never needed it in the first place, it's just another feel good liberal waste of time and money.
Jun 10, 2013 3:25PM
Jun 10, 2013 3:24PM
Fat people MUST NOT be a problem, because they had to fake someone being fat to try to control peoples freedom.
Jun 10, 2013 3:33PM
Don't say anything about the government, don't you know the NSA and FBI are listrning, watching and reading!
Jun 10, 2013 2:52PM
every thing is a fake today look at our  our leaders in go and fakesvernment all a joke and liars
Jun 10, 2013 3:38PM
Anything coming out of California these days;... it's usually not worth a damn!
Jun 10, 2013 3:21PM
I do the same thing with pics of my wing wang
Jun 10, 2013 3:22PM
These people need to realize the ends does NOT justify the means.  Sure, you may get people to think a bit more about sugar intake and it's link to obesity BUT it continues to perpetuate the belief that heavy people (both children and adults) can be used in any negative way.
Jun 10, 2013 3:44PM

This is the new accepted discrimination in this country. It provides a new excuse for the insurance companies, and medical corporations to charge more with little basis in truth. These are the type of corporations that are already raping us for their almighty profit and are always on the look out for new ways to victimize people. Obesity gives them victims without a voice because a lot of obesity is poverty driven because the poor can't afford quality food and people are all to willing to criticize others in the present political climate. Anytime people come up with something they are telling you is for your own good and you are in the wrong because of a "lifestyle" you are choosing, WATCH OUT!

Want to make a big dent in obesity in America, stop food manufacturers from putting high fructose corn syrup in everything to start. Food corporations are victimizing us in the the name of their profits too, especially those behind the big corn lobbyists.

Jun 10, 2013 3:08PM

Two groups of people that have open season on them are fat people and Christians.  The liberals have decided that these two groups, are not and should not be protected from hate speech.  So everyone take your shots at will.  It's ok to hate fat people and's the in thing to do. 

Jun 10, 2013 3:11PM
There's one thing you have to realize this is California liberal socialist state that think they should run your life and everybody else's that lives there their way or the you like it or not. When are you guys can realize that the liberal socialist in this country are no better than the Nazis. If you say anything out against them your racist if you disagree with their policies your racist. That's the socialist liberal way, why archer used to that by now the something to MSN, NBC, CBS, and MSNBC will not tell you because they like the socialist liberal platforms. That's what you got Obama care. The same thing. One of the senators got it right when he said the reason you give national healthcare to people's so you can control them. That's what Obama care is all about control over you and your life. If they don't like something you do. You're not going get the medical attention you you need. If you do exactly what they want you to do you get the belt attention you need, especially if you vote for liberals and trust me, but he will use this against conservative groups and people that are truly conservative. That's what Obama care will do for the liberals of this country make sure they stay in office so they could control your life's so get used to the people. You voted them in now you have to live with it, and the only one to blame issue. The liberals of this country. I want to see your faces when they say drama can have this because she's too old for grandpa can have this because he's too old and it will happen. The only way they could control this massive healthcare bill is to eliminate the patient's is going to be on and they will get away with because you see, it's just in its right. The old should go and die so the young can survive that it be their answer and you will accept because you're good soldiers, but you will need be amazed when it starts happening to your families you think, because you're good soldiers. That unit be treated with respect and dignity. You will not you're just another body this in their way and you will pay for with your life. Have a nice day.
Jun 10, 2013 3:32PM
The next overweight person that takes responsibility for their condition will be the FIRST...
Jun 10, 2013 2:44PM
Not all people are destined to be a size zero no matter what they eat or how much they exercise.  People are meant to be different sizes.  This is just another way to show government support of 'hate speech" toward people who are heavy... 
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