Sugary Shrek is Simultaneously Stumping For Kids’ Healthy Eating

shrek-thumbnail.jpgHate to sound like an ogre, but I’m turning green with GIANT (“gi-normous” as tweens might say) disconnects on the ostensibly hip new Ad Council Shrek :30 PSA urging kids to “get up, get up, get up” and take a “small step” toward healthier eating.

This is another classic case of a “throw ‘em a bone and show we care” marketing maneuver, lending the licensing of Dreamworks’ Shrek character to stump for childhood obesity. (while plastering the gentle giant all over every sugary snack known to man in ‘ogre-sized’ portions)

The content of the actual spot is not the problem…who can argue with encouraging kids to exercise? (Game Gear must be thrilled with that product promo; no Sega logo showing but, ahem) Now let’s put the PSA in a realistic media and marketing context as pitchmeisters target preschoolers and wee tots as young as two:

A review by CCFC found 17 food promos for the upcoming movie Shrek the Third featuring 75 different products of high calorie (“nutrient rich,” as in sugar=energy) junk!

The hypocrisy is right up there with having Burger King and Coca Cola as President’s Council on Physical Fitness alliance partners. (yes, check the list, folks…Shaping Youth uses this silliness in our media counter-marketing programs revealing the irony and profit-driven truths.

As we’ve written here before, fat is fiscal, and childhood obesity efforts like this are wafer thin. CCFC sums it well: “Why would young children follow Shrek’s advice about healthy living and ignore his entreaties to eat Happy Meals and Pop Tarts?”

CCFC co-founder, Dr. Susan Linn (my own gigantic Harvard hero in the junk food wars) said, “There is an inherent conflict of interest between marketing junk food and promoting public health…Surely Health and Human Services can find a better spokesperson for healthy living than a character that is a walking advertisement for McDonald’s, sugary cereals, cookies, and candy.”

How about it folks? Turning green from the lip-service of laudable “we’re really good guys” brandwashing?

You can sound off to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services via CCFC’s site. I’m hoping they’ll put an advocacy link on there to Dreamworks and the food industry itself. Reason?

I’m not sure firing the beast is the way to go. At least there’s SOME counter-marketing going on, even if it rings inauthentic, much like Cartoon Network’s “Get Animated” PSA that tells kids to turn off the TV and go jump rope. (Riiiiiiiiight. Just a sec, as soon as this commercial is over.)

I’d get a bit more hard core and have consumers target the brands’ licensing divisions directly, showing them parents are NOT pleased. (much like Australia’s Parent’s Jury)

Personally, I maintain that redirecting all the cool characters onto healthy food is a solid way to go, ditching cartoon advertising on junk food altogether.

Sugary crud doesn’t need added ‘appeal’—fruit and vegetables do. It’s that simple.

Use branding to shift the thinking. Use common sense guidelines for food marketing responsibility and tactics that actually WORK.

It works much better than regulatory prohibition and is the only way I’ll buy into the notion of corporate conscientiousness with mega-moguls’ PR posturing that they’re trying to “do the right thing.”



  1. For a counterpoint view, here’s a blog that just linked to us saying a PSA using Shrek is grand, which it IS assuming you USE the cartoons/creatures for HEALTHY fare and NOT sugary snacks…

    Not sure if she read the whole piece, because I DO believe it ‘pays’ to have branding chops in counter-marketing this problem and if it takes ogre heroes to get us there, so be it…

    My point is, it registers as ‘inauthentic,’ a marketing ploy, and a ‘disconnect’ with overall messaging when he’s stumping simultaneously for junk food. It negates the impact.

    I’d keep the exercise PSA, ditch the junk food, and brand the beastie on ‘better for you’ kid food, if you really wanna ‘help’ the obesity issue.

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