Lest this entry be dismissed as Obama-bashing, let me be clear that I am generally pleased with the direction in which the Obama administration is leading us.
Why the reservations? Here goes:
1. When we say "marketing," people tend to think "advertising." Advertising is an easy target. It is a politician's dragon, waiting to be slain. But evidence suggests that advertising, even that which targets kids, is not the root or even a major cause of childhood obesity. If so, limiting advertising won't solve and may not even dent the problem.
2. Advertising is a tiny part of marketing. The rest of marketing wields far greater power: manufacturing, economies of scale, distribution, supply, demand, culture, peer pressure, packaging, flavor — I could go on. Limiting advertising will have little effect on the above.
3. Beyond marketing, we need to consider other factors affecting how, when and what we eat. Lifestyles … microwave ovens … eating in the car … eating at the computer … the rise of farming and consequent disappearance of the nomadic lifestyle … machines and later computers which purged naturally occurring exercise from our daily routines … keeping ourselves and our kids so busy with soccer and piano lessons and who-knows-what that there isn’t time to sit down at family meals ... even self-imposed neoteny, which may have led to our forgetting how to properly feed ourselves.
4. We still need to address the overweight elephant in the room: that, ultimately, we are the ones who decide what to eat, and who teach our kids what to eat. Even if advertising is culpable as accused, we’re not off the hook for our own choices. Nor for our responsibility to act like parents, especially when kids are small and most easily taught.
So, sure, let's scrutinize marketing when addressing the nation’s obesity problem. But let's not stop there and dust our hands. Let's look at the whole picture. Including — and heaven help the politician who suggests it — personal responsibility.