Is Special K's 'Fat Talk' Ad a Hit or Miss?

Special K (Special K)

Women: Stop the fat talk! That's the message that cereal brand Special K wants to send, as part of a new campaign called "Shut Down the Fat Talk" with supermodel spokesperson Tyra Banks.

For the campaign launched Tuesday, Special K scoured social media in search of self-deprecating messages women often post online that shame their bodies, such as, "My face is so fat today. Gross!" "I just wish I was skinnier #fatty" and "Feeling so disgusted about my figure at the moment #cow," then created a fake clothing store and posted the messages on the clothing item's tags and on signs around the room. The goal was to emphasize how damaging these words can be when women go shopping. Upon reading the phrases, the female shoppers appear horrified and upset. "These are all things that I've said," one woman admits. Another exclaims, "This is like looking at the inside of my head." Another: "I didn't realize how bad it was. It's like you're bullying yourself." The women then make a pack to end fat talk and love their bodies, as is.

"This ad is a great way to start a dialogue about weight shaming, a very prevalent phenomena among women that's become a sort of female bonding ritual." Robyn Silverman, a body image expert and author of Good Girls Don't Get Fat: How Weight Obsession is Messing Up Our Girls, tells Yahoo Shine.
For example, you may have a friend who complains, "Ugh, I'm so fat today" and then you take your cue: "You're not, but I soooo am." According to Silverman, while you may have sympathetic intentions, the effect of this back-and-forth is anything but healthy. "What happens is that even if you engage in fat talk and don't mean it, the message seeps into your subconscious and eventually, you'll start to believe it," she says.

And while the reminder to engage in body love is a step in the right direction, Special K's message is a bit muddled. The ad opens with a voice-over that says, "93 percent of women fat talk. We believe it's a barrier to managing their weight," yet nothing is said of the effect on woman's mental health. What's more, the ad is a direct contrast to their 2011 "What will you gain when you lose?" campaign in which the brand invited women to step on an over-sized scale that, instead of a number, reads an inspirational word or phrase that represents the emotional payoff of achieving the woman's weight loss goal. The tagline for the ad is, "What do you gain when you lose?" and according to Silverman, there's potential harm in implying that women's lives will change for the better when they drop a few pounds.

Regardless, the efforts are part of an evolving female empowerment movement that's sweeping pop culture. In November, an overseas Pantene ad set out to eradicate gender stereotypes by asking, "Why is a man the boss while a woman is still called "bossy"? and "Why is a man called persuasive while a woman is called pushy?" The ad's tagline is: "Don't let labels hold you back. Be strong and shine."