The most recent Australian anti-obesity measure, the West Australian LiveLighter campaign, features a series of shocking television advertisements, including one showing a middle-aged man in his kitchen.
… This is part of yet another in a series of social marketing campaigns conducted for health promotion purposes and funded by public health authorities. Like many such ads, it seeks to achieve behaviour change by evoking negative emotions. These include fear of disease and an early death, guilt, shame, embarrassment – and in cases such as this one, disgust.
The images of this ad share the “yuck factor” with past Australian anti-smoking campaigns and photographs on cigarette packets. These images have featured gangrenous limbs or digits, blackened lungs full of tar, a mouth disfigured by cancerous lesions, people coughing up blood and so on.
The LiveLighter campaign is replicating the “Every cigarette is doing you damage” anti-smoking campaign by focusing on internal organs contaminated and rotted by tobacco. Here the slice of pizza replaces the cigarette as the poisonous agent of bodily damage.
The health authorities that give the go-ahead to advertising agencies to create such ads clearly believe that provoking shock, horror and repulsion in the viewer is a legitimate and effective means of persuading people to change their habits.