Shrek and his friends want children to get up off the couch and play, and they will be telling them so via a new series of public service announcements that begin running this week.
On Thursday, Feb. 1, second grade students from Kent Gardens Elementary School helped kick off a new ad campaign designed to combat childhood obesity. The students spent the morning in Washington D.C. with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services secretary Mike Leavitt, Advertising Council president and CEO Peggy Conlon and Dreamworks Animation SKG chairman of the board Roger Enrico, as they celebrated the official launch of the new series of public service announcements (PSA's).
"We are pleased to collaborate with DreamWorks Animation to address childhood obesity and possibly thwart the onset of chronic disease," said U.S. Department of Health and Human Services secretary Mike Leavitt. "I hope to find innovative ways to work as partners with many other companies in creating a culture of wellness. I am a strong supporter of the President's Healthier U.S. initiative, and encourage all Americans to be physically active every day, eat a nutritious diet, get their preventive screenings and make healthy choices."
The new ads feature characters from the Dreamworks film "Shrek," and are an extension of the Department of Health and Human Services and Ad Council "Small Steps Obesity Prevention" campaign which encourages children and their families to lead healthy lifestyles. The Small Steps Obesity Prevention campaign was launched in 2004 and originally focused on adults. In 2005, the Ad Council shifted the campaign's focus to children.
"The childhood obesity epidemic numbers are staggering," said Ellyn Fisher, director of corporate communications for the Ad Council.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of young people who are overweight has more than tripled since 1980. Today, more than 10 million school age children in America are considered overweight. In addition to the psychological and social issues of stigmatization, overweight children are at far greater risk of growing into adults who have cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, and other chronic diseases that may reduce the length and quality of their lives.
IN THE TELEVISION spots, characters from "Shrek" encourage children to "Be a player — get up and play an hour everyday."
"They really focus on the physical activity," said Fisher.
The original celebrity voices from the movie are also used in the ads.
"DreamWorks Animation is pleased to support HHS and the Ad Council on this important initiative," said company chairman Roger Enrico. "We can think of nothing more important than the well-being of our children. It's a delight for us to be able to share Shrek, Donkey and other great movie characters to help encourage kids to play and be active."
The ads are intended to serve as a complement to the Ad Council's existing "Can your food do that?" public service announcements which promote the benefits of eating healthy foods.
"Despite all of the emphasis focused on childhood obesity in our country during the last several years, many children and families are still not making the necessary changes to lead healthy lifestyles," said Ad Council President and CEO Peggy Conlon. "We are delighted to continue our partnership with HHS with this new series of PSA's that are both motivating and entertaining for children."
The public service announcements will run and air in advertising time and space that is donated by the media. Media companies that have made commitments to donate time and space to support the ads include Nickelodeon, Outdoor Advertising Association of America, Turner Broadcasting System, Univision Communications, Discovery Communications, Azteca America, Comcast Spotlight and Cox Communications.
A Kent Gardens parent employed with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services helped coordinate the students' participation in the event. At the launch, the second grade students participated in several different exercise sessions led by fitness expert Denise Austin and former U.S. Olympian Carrie Shrug.
"It went really well," said McLean resident and Kent Gardens parent Sharon Reis. "When we started out they were all up on stage and they met Secretary Leavitt and then Shrek came out — I think they were a little scared of Shrek at first, but then they started having fun."