“Provocative” or just downright offensive?

This week in lectures we discussed how ‘the image cannot lie’, referring to signs and semiotics. Many advertisements contain these signs and controversies so as to stand out and be remembered. The advertisement I have chosen to analyse is a part of an ad campaign from Georgia USA on child obesity, put out by the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

I personally found these ad sets completely offensive, and therefore as a highly controversial set of images, I chose to deconstruct them for this weeks assignment. The one I chose to focus mainly on was the image of the girl, which reads “WARNING – it’s hard to be a little girl if you’re not.”


The signifiers and signified included in this image include: the issue of obesity, the fact that it’s a black and white image; which conveys no happiness and even perhaps no hope for the child. Also, the salient image of the red writing suggests that it’s not acceptable to be overweight, as the colour red is usually associated with danger. Furthermore  the girl’s body language; her arms crossed and facial expressions of a blank, sad stare, indicates her isolation due to her weight.

There was a quote in the article the set of images originally came from which I found very ironic, as they refer to the expressions of the children as “bullied faces”, when the photo and the statement in fact is doing just that, by singling them out as obese, they are hurting the exact people that the ads are aimed at.

Furthermore, another quote from the article “It’s very provocative and makes people uncomfortable, but it’s when people are uncomfortable that change comes” really stood out to me and my friend Caitlin when discussing it in our tutorial this week, as the advertisements are not stating facts – like other “provocative” ads such as the visual TV advertisements on smoking; but are offensive and shaming to these children and others like them. In conclusion, I don’t see anything wrong with a controversial advertisement to catch the viewers attention and stick in their mind. But when it goes past the ‘factual’ and into the downrightly offensive, I think the motive behind the images needs to be re-evaluated.



(Some other images from the ad campaign)

Thanks for reading!


5 thoughts on ““Provocative” or just downright offensive?

  1. You’ve chosen a set of really good controversial images. I liked your interpretation that the way the children have been represented can in fact be seen as a form of bullying. Helps us to question when has advertising gone too far? Keep up the good writing! 🙂

    • Thank you! You too! I was horrified when I saw those images, I actually thought the same when I looked at yours too! They’re pretty similar haha. Ps I really like the pictures you put with each post, they’re really clever!

  2. Interesting images Sarah. I wonder how it would feel to be selected as one of the models for this campaign (can’t be good for the self-esteem).

    Also, the way that the subjects fill the frame makes them look imprisoned. The composition, the use of black and white and because the model looks directly at the camera reminds me of a mug shot. It’s as though they are being put on record for doing something wrong. Offenders. This ties in with your ideas about whether or not they are being portrayed as the bullies or the bullied.

    • Those are really interesting points! I definitely agree with the colour use and how they are portrayed as offenders, I think its similar with the use of the ‘WARNING’ sign. Thanks for your comment!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s