Childhood Obesity Ad Study: Educational or Insensitive?

By the Editors

We live in a world of numbers that tend to weigh heavily on our decisions to expand, to cutback, to reach out to new markets, to say goodbye to old, unprofitable streams. Every once in awhile, though, it is the qualitative results that give us pause.

And this is particularly true for a survey that we put out to over 200 people to gauge their reaction to a controversial ad campaign launched a few weeks ago by the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. The “Strong4Life” campaign targets childhood obesity from a unique angle–from the eyes of the children themselves. The ads set off a stream of media coverage – including many negative and outraged views.

SurveyBuilder wanted to get a read on the general population’s sentiments. So we decided to put our “embed a video” feature to good use, and showed our on-demand audience the series of videos from the campaign, asking them to rate each one on a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being not offensive, 5 being very offensive.  The majority of respondents didn’t find any of the videos offensive, while only 3-5% identified them as very offensive. Nonetheless, many still recognized this as a sensitive subject–revealed in their qualitative comments. Here are a few illustrations of the sentiments toward these ads – and the childhood obesity epidemic in general:


  • I’ve heard about these ads not being well received by people, but I have to disagree. I think these are great ads that make people wake up!
  • I do not feel these are offensive; however, they are sad. Obesity in this country has become out of control not just for kids but for adults as well.
  • We as a country need change so if it takes ads like these go for it.
  • These ads are addressing the issue that it is the parents’ responsibility and not the governments to help their children with their problems.
  • Childhood obesity is a epidemic that can be controlled with better information like the ads I just saw
  • I was a victim of childhood obesity myself, and these ads do not offend me. I feel it is a valid issue that needs to be addressed. Parents need to assume responsibility for their children’s weight problems.  Children internalize feelings of negativity, guilt and shame over excess weight that are unnecessary and incorrect – I hope the ads spread all over the U.S. Much needed awareness on parental responsibility to break this cycle.


  • While I feel that the message is necessary, these ads may be more hurtful than helpful in the long run. They could potentially cause even more bullying behaviors.
  • I think targeting the children is going to make it worse for those kids already being teased.
  • These children should not be paraded in front of the world because of their weight. Do something to the parents about the problem and quit hurting the children.
  • Obesity is a problem, but the statement that, “Being fat takes the fun out of being a kid” suggests that being overweight is negative and the videos also suggest that children’s weight problems are all their parents fault.

As these responses reveal, sometimes you have to read behind the numbers to get the full story. Our best insights can often be a combination of quantitative and qualitative data.