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Anti-obesity Public Service Ads May Be Too Much To Stomach

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The government unveiled public service ads Tuesday aimed at getting Americans to lose weight, and obesity experts are giving them mixed reviews.

The goal of the campaign ( is to have people take small, achievable steps to improve their health and reverse the obesity epidemic, says Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson.

Some of the ads are surreal. In one TV ad, boys playing on a beach discover a human belly; in another, shoppers find a double chin in a grocery store. Several print ads focus on close-up shots of heavy stomachs, thighs and buttocks and show how they might slim down as their owners get more active.

Peggy Conlon, president of the Ad Council, which produces public service ads, says the new ads were test-marketed on audiences, and ''everybody really understood them and felt motivated.''

But others say the ads may offend overweight Americans.

''The message to eat healthier and be more active is good, but to set it up in a way that makes overweight people look disgusting is highly insensitive, stigmatizing and not necessary,'' says Kelly Brownell, director of the Yale Center for Eating and Weight Disorders.

Richard Monturo, strategic ad planner for TBWA Worldwide in New York, also likes the focus on small changes, but says that it may not be appropriate for government ads to spotlight appearance.

The ads take a modest step toward addressing one of the fastest-rising health problems, says Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington-based consumer group.

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