Monday, February 8, 2010

Can the Message be Separated From the Source?

Have you seen Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty? Their message is a great one- it challenges the beauty ideals set by society and shows that beauty comes in different shapes, sizes and ages.
But critics point out that the campaign is used to sell products- including firming and anti-aging creams. So really, Dove's just upholding the beauty ideals that they claim to be against....


Dove's parent company, Unilever, also owns Axe- a male hygiene product line. Axe ads don't really use "real women"...
But, does this take away from the Real Beauty Campaign message?

Glamour magazine got quite a bit of attention for featuring an untouched (gasp!) photograph of a "plus-sized model". Other magazines have since followed suit, leading us to wonder what their motivation really is...
But even if their motivation is the bottom line ($$), does it matter if what they're doing is positive?

Now what about if a health agency, like Dietitians of Canada or the American Dietetic Association- organizations that represent dietitians and provide evidence-based nutrition information to the public- were funded by food industry?
Does their message lose its credibility? Do dietitians lose their credibility?

I'm not a member of Dietitians of Canada (DC) (it's not mandatory), but I know that members receive a large amount of industry-sponsored stuff, including from dairy, beef, and egg producers, etc etc. Some of their resources are also sponsored...

I was asked to help organize a career day at my university for dietetic interns a few months ago, but turned it down after learning that the event was entirely funded by big food industry companies (the majority of the speakers represented these companies too). It just made me uncomfortable...

Some dietitians I spoke to brought up the point that that many universities are funded by industry (tobacco, oil, etc)... but this fact doesn't invalidate our education...
They also said that a lot of good work can be done within industry... that the work is not necessarily affected by the funding.

Marion Nestle, a very well-respected dietitian, author and professor, called out the American Dietetic Association (ADA) for their associations with industry (which include Coca-Cola and Pepsi!), stating that it does taint their message.

This is a letter she wrote on her blog to ADA members.

"Respected ADA colleagues: as long as your organization partners with makers of food and beverage products, its opinions about diet and health will never be believed independent (translation: based on science not politics) and neither will yours. Consider the ADA’s Nutrition Fact Sheets, for example, each with its very own corporate sponsor (scroll down to the lower right hand corner of the second page to see who paid for the Facts). Is the goal of ADA really the same as the goal of the sponsors–to sell the sponsor’s food products? Is this a good way to get important scientific messages to the public? ADA members: how about doing something about this!"

Click here for part of the ADA's response which basically states that they don't have a lot of money and corporate funding allows them provide members and the public with educational programs.

What do you think?

Can you trust resources (including the food guide) or messages that come from an organization that's funded by certain food industries?

If you're a dietitian, how do you feel about the organizations that represent you partnering with food industry?

(Of course, the dietetic profession isn't the only organization that receives corporate sponsorship- think of the medial profession receiving money from pharmaceutical companies... even the Olympics are sponsored by McDonald's and Coca-Cola...).



4 comments:

Jme said...

I think that it is up to us to vote with our purchases as you have said in previous posts. When companies make changes for the better, adopting more honest advertising, reducing child labour, providing recyclable packaging, etc. it is a financial decision, but if we agree with it we should support it.

On the other hand, the value that we derive from DC or ADA is in their independence from the private sector that they are providing information on. Accepting money from the food industry when you are a dietitian or group of dietitians is an easily identifiable conflict of interest, and as such should be stopped.

Sybil Hebert, RD said...

Thanks so much for your comment Jme.

Gina said...

Great post, as always. I have to say this is a topic (one of the many) that really gets to me. Even when ADA partnered with Coca cola I was sort of confused and annoyed. I mean, what the heck?! Yeah, so they pumped some vitamins into their product, so?? Even my own company stated buying into a supplement that I didn't feel comfortable sponsoring. I told my boss/colleague that I didn't like the message this supplement company was sending and I didn't want to be a part of it. He told me to give it time, so I did. Well two months later my boss realized I was right, and he let them go, thank goodness!

As for the Dov commercial, I like it. Yeah, they are trying to sell a product, but this is the type of commercial I would want my young girl to see. Women DON'T naturally look like that! HERE is what they naturally look like, so don't try to be perfect! I think they did a great job. Same with the Glamour shot, WOW, makes me feel good, :) That's rare from a commercial/ad.

Love Local Food said...

I loved this post and shared it with the community college class I teach. I once saw a study that said a woman's self esteem decreases within seven seconds of looking at a magazine. The Dove video is great for showing up what really is in magazines - artwork, not real life.