Letters to the Editor

Healthy Discussion: TV Activist Points Finger at Ad Content

In “The Advertising Diet: Why ads aren’t to blame for America’s obesity problems” [Adweek, Dec. 3], Professor Paul Kurnit is right to state that parents have a big responsibility, but CEO Paul Kurnit is way too humble when it comes to the impact the advertising industry has when it comes to selling products to children and their parents.

A Twinkie today is not what it was back in the 1970s. It doesn’t taste the same and it does not have the same contents. Many foods are like that. Advertising is equally different, with food items labeled “healthier” or “part of a balanced diet,” with no sense or context.

Healthy foods are not simply foods with reduced sugar and fat. Mr. Kurnit conveniently leaves out the salt content and artificial everything else; those ingredients are not part of a healthy diet of any kind. The advertising industry should ban the word “healthier” and say truthfully if the food is healthy or not.

It is also time for parents to stop running nonstop and to pay attention to the needs of their families. The best way to do this is to turn off the electronic media that tell us what we must have and do. This will also stop the fear that Mr. Kurnit refers to and the big reason parents don’t allow their children to go out and play. The scare tactics are as much a marketing ploy as selling “healthier” foods. The media is not telling people the truth about the world in which we live or about the foods we are eating, and the lies have left us fat, sedentary and solitary with short attention spans.

Advertising is certainly not the only reason we are obese, but it is a major player, and we only pretend that it is not so to feel better about the work of selling to children, encouraging them to nag their parents into buying “food” that they should not be eating. We then pat ourselves on the back for the great return on investment for the client, without stopping to think about the child.

If we want to see healthier people living in functional families in vibrant communities, we all need to do a better job. Facing the truth, that each of us is responsible, is a good place to start.

Robert Kesten

Executive director

Center for Screen-Time Awareness

Washington, D.C.



The Old Boys’ Network: Industry Ponies Up for New Foundation

The response to my op-ed, “Generation X” [Art & Commerce, Nov. 12], has been tremendous. I received more than 50 e-mails from people and agencies around the country, expressing their delight that someone finally aired this issue and conveying their desire to help. People of all ages currently in advertising, as well as former ad folks—some who readily admitted that they are well-off financially—are ready to pitch in both with ideas to raise money as well as with funds of their own.

Sadly but understandably, some of the people in need who had contacted me in the past asked that they not be named simply out of embarrassment. Only one person, a former agency principal and now blogger, had anything negative to say. He thought the story “sounded funky.” When I asked what he meant by that, he went on a diatribe about being sick and tired of a “victim nation” that had no one but themselves to blame. That’s easy to say when you live in a mansion on a private island, as I later found out is the case. He said he didn’t want to sound heartless because, he insisted, he’s not. He may not be heartless, just clueless.

I would like to thank The Ad Club of New York for offering its support in helping to put a foundation together and to help run it. One person alone can’t do this.

And one truly remarkable thing happened that was above and beyond anything else. I received an envelope in the mail that was postmarked “Los Angeles, CA” with “CLOW” handwritten on the back of the envelope. There was no note inside, just a check with “Old Guys Ad Fund” written across the top. It was a personal check signed by Lee Clow from him and his wife.

As remarkable and thoroughly heartwarming as this was to me, people who know Mr. Clow know that he has always been a class act. He didn’t have to write anything. He simply put his money where his mouth, and heart, are. Lee Clow has always been a legendary figure. For me, he has now become mythical.

Thanks again, and we’ll be keeping Adweek and everyone else posted as we set up this foundation and start putting some help and money where my mouth is.

Paul Cappelli

CEO, founder

The Ad Store

New York