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Globophobics look away now

Wednesday 23 March, 2011 by Helen

Globophobics (balloons fearers, fact fans) might want to steer clear of their TVs for the next half decade or so, as the Federal Government launch their latest ad campaign to inspire us to reduce our dramatically ballooning waistlines ... Eric the Balloon Man.

The $41 million campaign, which will be floating across TVs, radios and public transport, interwebs and newspapers for the next four years, features balloon man Eric, who has become a ‘swapper' not a ‘stopper'. Eric is probably a lover not a fighter too.

So anyway Eric swaps his sedentary balloon computer browsing for more active walking of his balloon dog, and his large bowl of balloon pasta for a smaller one, or possibly the same bowl with some air let out.

 Balloon dog

With the sound off you could mistake Eric and his sadly unnamed but extremely colourful balloon partner and balloon children for a kids' TV program. Find the remote and turn the volume up though, and Eric is telling the Australian public an important health message.

Obesity can cause type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

Moving away from your common-of-garden health scare ad, the thinking behind Eric and his balloon chums bears more than a little similarity to that advocated by UK Prime Minister David Cameron's ‘Nudge Unit', which suggests significant public health benefits can be achieved by gently ‘nudging' citizens in the right direction on a long-term basis rather than scaring the be-jeezus out of them with shock ads for a fortnight.

And let's face it, it's worth a try. In the ever-evolving world of social marketing, and finding out exactly what motivates people to stop unhealthy behaviours, ‘nudging' is definitely in vogue at the moment.

So what does Cancer Council Victoria think about Eric? Well luckily no globophobics here, so we applaud the Federal Government's investment in obesity prevention; establishing the link between obesity and cancer in people's minds is on our ‘to-do' list as well.

But (there's always a ‘but' isn't there?) there's more work to be done (and there's always more work to be done too).

A $41 million investment over 4 years, though laudable, is a thimble-full of the vast ocean that is the combined marketing budget of the global junk food corporations - who shall remain nameless.

Children in particular (who, despite the involvement of balloon animals, Eric is probably not going to appeal to) face a barrage of advertising through the sneaky, irresponsible practices of junk food companies, such as sponsorship of children's sport.

And swapping a big plate of pasta for a smaller one is a good idea, but what about making healthy foods cheaper so they become a doable alternative to ready meals? And making sure it's clear, through traffic light labelling, exactly which foods are healthy and which are going to be the equivalent of adding a bit more helium into the balloon?


Still, slowly slowly catchee monkey - it's a good start but one which needs to be backed up by substantial policy change.

We'd be interested to hear your thoughts about Eric though. Do his exhortations make you want to become a swapper too? Or are you wondering where the nearest drawing pin is?

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