The Diet Detective: Can TV Commercials Make You Fit?

There has been a significant amount of research to demonstrate that watching too much television can lead to an increase in body weight--because you become a coach potato. I wondered if TV could also inspire the opposite, so I asked a few advertising experts which TV commercials they found the most inspiring--the ones that make you get up, get out and get fit.

Expert: Pippa Seichrist, president of Miami Ad School (
TV Commercial: Nike "If You Let Me Play"
See It:
Date Aired: 1995
Description: This spot showed a series of little girls in typical little girl settings. Each girl talks about the different benefits girls receive from playing sports.
Comments: "This commercial aired years ago," says Seichrist, "but it is one of the most memorable spots I have ever seen. How did it move me? Four years ago, when we adopted a 6-year-old little girl from Ukraine, one of the first things I did was enroll her in sports: gymnastics, basketball, baseball, soccer, skiing. She mastered the American sport of baseball before she was fluent in English. She can outthrow any boy in her class and can outrun all but one. Being accomplished in sports has given her a huge amount of confidence. While I am sure the 'Let Me Play' commercial sold a lot of girls' sporting goods for Nike, it also helped society."

Expert: Michael Mackert, Ph.D., assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin Department of Advertising
TV Commercial: Nike Briscoe High
See It:
Date Aired: 2006
Description: The ad is set in a fictional high school called Briscoe High. The story of the commercial revolves around a high school football game, with the winning touchdown pass caught by one of the actual high school kids in the spot.
Comments: According to Mackert, "The high school in the commercial is named for Marlin Briscoe, the first African American quarterback in the NFL. More significantly, Briscoe is actually in the commercial--he's one of the assistant coaches in the locker room when Don Shula is speaking to the team before the game. It's an engaging, inspirational campaign."

Expert: Drew McLellan, CEO of McLellan Marketing Group and author of marketing blog Drew's Marketing Minute  (
TV Commercial: Wii Fit
See It:
Date Aired: 2008
Description: The spot shows children and adults of all ages working out with the Wii Fit in their homes. In each vignette we see them stretching, playing soccer, doing push-ups and even stepping into yoga poses. The spot uses an energized soundtrack without voice-over to let us feel the energy of exercising with the Wii.
Comments: "This spot works because it goes right at the main reasons why people don't exercise," says McLellan. "They don't believe it will be fun, they aren't sure what/how to do it and they don't have time to fit a trip to the gym into their schedule. By adopting a very hip feel and energy, the commercial makes exercising look entertaining and engaging. That reassures us that the working out will not be drudgery."

Expert: Adam Armbruster, senior partner at Eckstein, Summers, Armbruster and Co. (
TV Commercial: V8 Juice "Drive-Thru"
See it:
Date Aired: Starting in 2007
Description: V8 juice asks us to question our daily diet decisions. In the commercial this is shown as a man receives his double-bacon cheeseburger order at a drive-through while the server bonks him on the head to remind him of the bad choice he's just made.
Comments: "This ad shocks us into actively monitoring what we eat, instead of blindly ordering what 'looks good' on the fast-food menu," says Armbruster.

Expert: Marty Cooke, partner and creative director at SS+K
TV Commercial: Under Armour
See it:
Date Aired: 2008
Description: This spot shows a series of athletes in serious training mode outside the typical gym setting. They're on the street, in a warehouse and in an urban park using items found in these locales, such as garbage cans and park benches, as key parts of their training regimen.
Comments: "By its choice of music, well-muscled athletes and inner-city locales, this commercial is trying to make Under Armour workout gear hip for what is called in the ad trade the 'urban market,' " says Cooke. "But with all that strength on display doing such unorthodox exercises, it makes not only the gear but working out itself look hip."

Expert: Linda Kaplan Thaler, CEO and chief creative officer of The Kaplan Thaler Group (
TV Commercial: Weight Watchers' "Stop Dieting. Start Living." / "History of Dieting"
See it:
Date Aired: 2008
Description: This spot tackles head-on America's obsession with "miracle" or fad diets: It emphasizes their sheer number, the absurd spectrum they run, and, most important, that they just don't work.
Comments: "The ad packs a powerful punch with its refreshingly honest and frank approach," states Kaplan. "We know there's no such thing as a quick-fix diet--no healthy, sustainable way to drop weight fast--but we want to believe what celebrity magazines and the latest diet books say. I can see myself and a million others reflected here--in this day and age, who hasn't attempted at least one fad diet? The line, 'The diet secret to end all diet secrets is ... there is no diet secret,' is incredibly powerful as it articulates what we already know but might not want to fully admit. Viewers are forced to recognize that radical, 'miracle' diets just don't work."
Charles Stuart Platkin is an Active Expert , nutrition and public health advocate, author of the best seller Breaking the Pattern (Plume, 2005), Breaking the FAT Pattern (Plume, 2006) and Lighten Up (Penguin USA/Razorbill, 2006) and founder of Integrated Wellness Solutions. Sign up for The Diet Detective newsletter free at

Copyright 2009 by Charles Stuart Platkin

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