Two weeks ago, I wrote about the shocking advertising campaign from the New York health department that warned that soft drinks consumption can lead to amputation.
Now the poster, and the campaign have been discredited.
In an article entitled Blame photoshop, not diabetes, for this amputation, the New York Times has reported that the person shown in the advertisement did not need crutches because his legs were intact.
The health department has admitted that its advertising agency had 'Photoshopped' out the lower half of the man’s legs from the picture ‘to make its point’.
When the campaign was announced, the Health Department did not say that the man shown — whose photo originally came from the Getty Images picture library — was not an amputee and may not have had diabetes.
Officials said the advertisements were testimonials that showed real people and real consequences, but they said that doing so was not always feasible.
“Sometimes we use individuals who are suffering from the particular disease, other times we have to use actors,” said John Kelly, a health department spokesman. “We might stop using actors in our advertisements if the food industry stops using actors in theirs.”
The American Beverage Association, which opposes the city’s efforts against sodas and fast food, called the advertisement 'overwrought'.
“This is another example of the ‘What can we get away with?’ approach that shapes these taxpayer-funded advertising campaigns,” said ABA director of communications Chris Gindlesperger.
Bob Garfield, a commentator for Advertising Age and National Public Radio, said that the misrepresentation “was lazy or cheap or silly, but I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it". Still, he said, “Why people lie when there’s no penalty for telling the truth is an absolute mystery to me".
So, nice work New York Health Department. Do you really think that faking photos ‘to make a point’ is going to make consumers rethink their consumption habits or believe the messages you want to get across?
Interview by Bill Bruce. Bill is group editorial director of FoodBev Media. You can contact him here.
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