Now in Aisle 6: Special K Wakeup Call

Kellogg’s Special K has a new ad campaign currently making the rounds online called “Shhhhut Down Fat Talk.”  The video is engaging and very clever as they visually depict the power of “fat talk.”  Women enter a fake clothing store called SHHHH in which all of the clothing labels, instead of being a size, are statements we might think about ourselves in our heads . . .  “I look fat in this” or “I have a muffin top.”  Signs around the store carry similar messaging.  The women in the store are drawn to the clothing but as they see the labels and signage, their reactions change.  They are disturbed as they realize that the words they are reading are simply the thoughts they’ve had in their own heads.  The words, “You wouldn’t talk this way to anyone else, so why do it to yourself?” then appear on the screen.

So all is good, right?  A great video calling out an unhealthy practice in which so many women engage.  And one that, we at REbeL, work very hard to eliminate.  However, I don’t think Special K is truly joining the REbeLution just yet . . . This video IS great because it’s a conversation-starter.  It’s bringing the concept of fat talk (basically body bashing) to the forefront of discussions, which is helpful because awareness is the first step in bringing about change.  BUT there are also some problems, and in order to be media literate individuals, we need to be able to recognize both the good and the bad in what we see.

The voiceover in the video states, “93% of women fat talk . . . we believe it’s a barrier to managing their weight.”  So stopping fat talk isn’t really about engaging in positive self-talk because it’s better for your overall health and emotional wellbeing?  Instead, you should stop fat talking because Special K thinks it will help you to lose weight (even though there is no actual evidence of that)?  If you check out the Special K website, you will see that they haven’t suddenly changed their philosophy.  They are still all about encouraging consumers to replace two meals per day with Special K cereals, shakes, and bars in an effort to drop pounds.  They are still running with the “What will you gain when you lose?” campaign . . . because if we lose six pounds in two weeks, we will suddenly gain happiness and contentment.  Riiigght . . .  we cannot forget that Special K is still trying to sell their product.

We are getting smarter and many are becoming more savvy consumers.  Women (and men too) are growing tired of the same old advertising practices and want to see a more diverse range of individuals pictured.  And guess what?  Those responsible for marketing and advertising KNOW that!  So you want to see more ads that are empowering and body positive and “real” (a la Dove’s Real Beauty campaign)?  At their core, these ads truly aren’t about producing positive change unless it means a positive change to the company’s bottom line.  (Dove’s sales went up 20% in one year following their launch of the Real Beauty Campaign, Forbes, 2011.)  Instead, they are co-opting terms like “fat talk” and claiming the body acceptance movement for their own.  All the while, the true advocates for a REbeLution are working hard to change the definition of beauty and health for every body . . . regardless of what type of cereal you buy.