As Ideas Go, This is a Bad One

This past weekend I had lunch in a pub that used to be a favorite of mine many years ago.  It wasn’t one of my better ideas, but it’s not the bad idea in question on this post.  I’ll write more later this week about the lunch itself.

While we were there the local top-40 hits radio station was playing, loudly.  I never, ever listen to top-40 radio, so it was a bit of an education.  One of the things I learned was that I’m not missing anything by never, ever listening to top-40 radio (I listen to a lot of music, just on iTunes and satellite radio).  Frankly that wasn’t a surprise.

What did surprise me was that fully half the ads I heard were for diet clinics and weight-loss gimmicks.  Now remember, this is an all-hits station.  It’s target listeners are 12-24 years of age.  And the ads they listen to (when they listen to the radio – young people, as a group, don’t, but that’s another story) are about quick and easy ways to lose weight.  With a consistent “it’s not your fault” message.  Wow.  Nothing about healthy eating or exercise, just, “come give us money and you won’t have to worry about that unsightly muffin-top anymore.”

Most disturbing was the ad for weight-loss SURGERY.  Yes, gastric bypass and lap band surgery, marketed HARD to teenagers.  Now, their website says you have to be 18 and significantly overweight.  But they’re running an ad in heavy rotation on the all-hits radio station to sell it.  And who is marketing this evil, horrible, really terrifically awful idea?  One of the area’s largest and most-respected hospitals, North Florida Regional Medical Center.  Which is an HCA hospital.  I’m sure if it were not potentially profitable in the extreme, HCA wouldn’t allow the ad expenditure.

There are cases where this kind of surgery is necessary.  But it’s surgery!  They cut your belly open and tie-off most of your stomach!  And if you don’t address whatever it was that made you want to eat the way you ate to gain all that weight in the first place … the portion of your stomach that you sectioned-off to be your new stomach will expand and you will get fat again.  And then what?  More surgery?  Heck, HCA could set up a revolving door for this stuff.  Maybe a card-punch system for frequent lap-banders.

If I haven’t made it clear by now, I believe marketing weight-loss surgery to kids (ok, teens, at best) is, in a word, immoral.  There are (extreme) cases where this kind of surgery makes sense, but your doctor (pediatrician, in this case) should refer you, not the ad between the crappy dance tunes.  If only those extreme cases where it makes medical sense were accepted they wouldn’t have an ad budget to sell them.

I hope the station (and the rep) made a bunch of money selling this ad schedule, and I hope they enjoy spending it.  ‘Cause Karma?  It’s a bitch.

Have I exaggerated a bit about the extent to which this surgery fails?  Yes.  But if you think it’s a good idea to actively market bariatric surgery to kids … this may not be the blog for you.


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Amy on June 24, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    My favorite thing about this post is the link to the research on radio’s future.

    No, no, my favorite thing about this is how fitting it is in light of what I read this morning. I was reading Marie Claire (don’t judge) on BART and an article about eating disorders noted that specialists in that field are dismayed by what Michelle Obama’s doing on childhood obesity. They believe the absolute best thing you can do to prevent your child from having an unhealthy relationship with food later in life is to never, ever mention a diet to them. I disagree with the premise that what MO is talking about is “dieting,” but certainly Lap-Bands on teenage radio is disaster.


  2. Posted by hlward on June 24, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    Yeah, I missed the Marie Claire piece …

    But my perception of MO’s effort is that it’s education. It’s shocking how many of us don’t “get” basic nutrition, which means the work she’s doing is necessary.

    Re the radio research, I spent two days in a seminar on this several years ago and it was fascinating. I’m still maintain the biggest problem with terrestrial radio is that it’s almost exclusively REALLY BAD, regardless of the format. People over a certain age continue to listen in hopes that it will stop being so bad and because they don’t have an innate understanding of and comfort with the other listening options. People under that age know they have 2.3 gazillion listening options, and exercise them.


  3. […] fake food, no magic-bullet diet, no gastric-bypass surgery … just hard work, good research and honest commitment to getting better.  I wish I had put […]


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