VERB Yellowball Deflated, Just As Bounce Gets Going!

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Un-freaking believable. The feds fouled up again. Just as the buzz was building and Verb Yellowballs were showing up everywhere in a cool campaign designed to wage war on childhood obesity, what do they do? Take the air out of the funding.

This kind of short-sighted absurdity is EXACTLY what I ranted about in my op-ed in the Times, where government PRETENDS to give childhood obesity HUGE prominence saying one-fifth of children are likely to be obese by 2010 and then pulls the plug on doing anything about it.

The media lipservice is astounding. One minute childhood obesity is a national health care crisis with the need for prevention as dramatic as stockpiling antibiotics and buying vaccines. The next, WHAMMO! Program cut. Payouts gone.

Why pop a hole smack dab in the CDC’s Yellowball program, deflating the bounce it needs to make a difference for kids?

At a cost of $59 million last year alone, the feds put some chops behind this thing and it started to work. Stats touted a 30% increase in exercise among preteens it reached.

Maybe viralmeisters can cite some stats on how long a program should be given to work, but from a brand-marketing standpoint, I say the feds are blowing this big time. They didn’t reach saturation OR even give the brand a chance to grow. C’mon people, you don’t have to be in advertising to know you don’t bail on a blitz before you reach critical mass.

I visited the site a minute ago to check the ‘blog a ball’ stats where kids log in and talk about what they did with their Yellowball or where it came from, and there were 13,579 active entries! No small blip for a new effort to put bounce into kids.

At a key age when outdoor play coolness caché winds down and kids slide into high risk couch potato zones for electronic entertainment, Verb Yellowball tactics tapped into some eye-popping potential by using sophisticated marketing…but alas, the feds killed it half-way.

Shouldn’t surprise us…Everything government has launched to stem childhood obesity has been executed with a half-baked, scattershot, media plan.

The Agriculture Department has a school snack program for fruit and vegetables (yay) that reaches only 14 states. (boo) The CDC’s anti-obesity initiative funded early childhood nutrition and education (yay) in only 28 states. (boo) They just can’t seem to help tripping over themselves…

Verb Yellowball was the most media savvy blitz to date. The CDC and DHHS should be wildly applauded for having the foresight and ingenuity of using digital advertising and buzz marketing tactics to target tweens in a GOOD way…It represents everything we’re trying to do here at Shaping Youth, using the power of media for positive change.

Taking the air out of Yellowball after spending big bucks to create it is an unmitigated waste of time and taxpayer money. It’s not only irresponsible, it’s a colossal credibility problem for this administration who already has corporate ‘junk food giants’ serving as ‘advocates’ in the President’s Council on Physical Fitness. Will they go back to funding ‘studies’ with boring binders of curriculum collecting cobwebs unused in busy schoolteacher’s drawers? One can only guess.

Even the Institute of Medicine voiced a stinging indictment of our government’s commitment to childhood obesity prevention, including Verb Yellowball’s quick demise. In the latest report, Dr. Jeffrey Koplan formerly a CDC prevention director, and IOM panelist leader commented on the decision to cut a program actually working, “it calls into question the commitment to obesity prevention within government.”

Margo Wootan of CSPI opined, “What the country is doing is like putting a Band-Aid on a brain tumor.” Go Margo. Go Jeffrey. We’re with you.

Childhood obesity needs to be a REAL priority, and Parents Action for Children just landed a ‘take action’ link in my e-mail (love those quick advocacy orgs!)

Click and send, baby! E-blast their link to every school district, sports team, parent group and youth org in your bandwidth and make a difference by ‘viral marketing,’ Yellowball style.

THAT’s how change happens. Full force focus with laser-targeted vision…

…otherwise known as “FORWARD TO A FRIEND.”

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