Say so long to skinny: More ads aimed at obese folks

Companies are trying to use America's weight to their advantage.

By InvestorPlace Oct 5, 2012 12:27PM
Image, Overweight copyright Image Source, Getty ImagesBy Alyssa Oursler

iplogoWe hear it from all around: America is getting fatter.

Now, though, we're starting to see it all around as well. More and more companies are featuring obese people in their ads -- and not as the butt of jokes, USA Today reports.

Instead, considering the fact that almost two in three adults are overweight or obese and that nearly half of the population will be obese in the next 20 years, it's clear that companies need to appeal to this growing pool of America.

Athletic apparel maker Nike (NKE), for example, which has seen its share of struggles this year, recently debuted a commercial of an obese man jogging. As a spokesperson for the company explained, "It's not just championship athletes that aspire to push their limits."

And, as the spokesperson didn't explicitly say, it's not just championship athlete or fitness fiends that Nike wants -- or needs -- to buy its shoes and gear.

McDonald's (MCD) has made similar moves to play the weight trend and draw in more customers, but in the opposite direction. The company is known for being unhealthy, and has thus tried to appeal to health-minded consumers.

This is because, while many are getting fatter, those who aren't are actually getting skinnier. The weight trend is showing a clear divergence.

In both examples, a few things are clear. To start, health is key -- whether it's the shared problem of obesity or the growing desire to be fit. And because of that, capturing both extremes of customers is also a key for companies.

If the commercials are successful in bringing in this part of the population, it could at least be a step in the direction for Nike, which has struggled so far this year.

But even if you're skeptical that the commercial will do much, it still reinforces the significance of the obesity trend, which can be played in several ways.

As more people gain weight, health care will be in even higher demand, as will obesity drugs. Arena Pharmaceuticals (ARNA), Vivus (VVUS) and Orexigen Therapeutics (OREX) are just a few players in that game.

Also, more could jump on board programs like Weight Watchers International (WTW) and NutriSystem (NTRI).

The trend isn't exclusive to America, either -- and countless industries (like the 10 listed here) could cash in on a fatter world.

All in all, the bottom line is pretty clear: Even companies making their money off of athletic-minded folks are paying attention this clear trend. You probably should too.

As of this writing, Alyssa Oursler did not own a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

More from InvestorPlace
Oct 5, 2012 3:36PM

When I grew up fat kids got made fun of.Now most of the kids are fat.Blame it on video games

and junk food.Way back when we were expected to serve time in the military during our

youth.It wouldn`t be a bad idea for a lot of reasons.Advertising and money rules everything.

Oct 6, 2012 5:42PM

Billboards and ads that stigmatize fat people will do nothing to positively affect the health of the populace. Three 2011 studies confirm these facts.


The study Obesity in the News: Do Photographic Images of Obese Persons Influence Antifat Attitudes? indicated that participants who viewed the negative photographs expressed more negative attitudes toward obese people than did those who viewed the positive photographs. Implications of these findings for the media are discussed, with emphasis on increasing awareness of weight bias in health communication and journalistic news reporting.


The study Weight Stigma: Health Implications relates that weight stigma:

Compromises psychological well-being
Is NOT an effective motivator for lifestyle changes
Affects healthcare


The study The Stigmas of Obesity: Does Perceived Weight Discrimination Affect Identity and Physical Health? reveals that perceived weight discrimination is found to be harmful, increasing the health risks of obesity associated with functional disability and, to a lesser degree, self-rated health.


There is an evidence-based compassionate alternative to conventional dieting: Health At Every Size®. For more information on Health At Every Size, you can find in-depth research-based information in the book Health At Every Size - The Surprising Truth About Your Weight by Dr. Linda Bacon (

Oct 5, 2012 4:12PM
Just what the snack food industry has been waiting for - politically correct food ads for the obese
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