Opinion Post: What's Going on in the Media? Analyzing The Gains Project

In 2011, the Kellogg’s cereal brand Special K® launched a campaign called “The Gains Project.” Set in Central Park, their TV commercial featured everyday women being asked to weigh themselves in public. Crazy, yes? But wait! This isn’t a normal scale. Instead of your weight in numbers, it tells you your worth in a word. Watch the relief on these women’s faces.

While Kellogg’s sure isn’t the first company to sell their product by selling a feeling – emotional manipulation is advertising 101 – Kellogg’s seems to go a step further by linking weight loss with a pseudo-social movement: “What will you gain when you lose?”

You’ll gain pride. Courage. Joy. Oh, and also this sassy thing called a smaller waistline. But you just can’t feel those good things – or gain those good thoughts – until you lose weight. Wait. What? Obviously, there are positive and negative messages in this campaign. We’ll go through a couple here.

1. Their mission statement.
Their website reads: "Nobody should be defined by a number. We invite you to choose a word - a way you want to feel - and let that be your motivation. When you answer the question What will you gain when you lose, you're committing yourself and helping to inspire women everywhere." Whew, those PR pros came up with some savvy stuff (and a nice logo, btw).

2. An awareness about society's fixation on numbers. For this, Special K® has done a wonderful job in defying the need to define weight-related success by a number or an image. (As you know from our own More Than a Number video, we’re big fans of this approach to building self-worth.)

Watch The UK Gains Project's Commercial

Script: From the day we are born we're defined by a number. But is a number inspiring? We believe in a more powerful motivation. Pride. Possibilities. Joy. Courage. Not a number, but the way we want to feel. Beautiful. Tell us, what will you gain when you lose?

1. You have to lose in order to gain.
The idea of striving for courage, joy, and possibility is one that we can all faithfully stand behind. The problem comes the with ad's primary slogan "What will you gain when you lose?", which implies that we must first lose in order to gain. Our minds have an unfortunate tendency to focus on the negative messages and to let them define what we perceive as truth.

2. Failing to present wellness over weight loss. Special K bookends a weight-loss message by overemphasizing food. A person’s diet is one part of his or her lifestyle, but exercise, spiritual growth, attention to stress and emotional health play important parts, as well. By focusing on food, they’re limiting the power of holistic health.

It is essential in today's media that we are able to separate the negative and the positive messages, so that we may discard the first and hold tightly to the latter. This campaign has the possibility of inspiring both positive and negative thoughts and motivations. We hope we’ve shed some light on both the positive and negative aspects so you can be aware of the effects of today’s media messages. Feel free to tell us what you think below!


Post by Kendall Cooke and Liz Llewellyn

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