People who are overweight or obese are subject to a stubborn prejudice: it is said that they eat their emotions, do not take care of themselves, avoid exertion, and shun exercise. And day after day, they have to face often scornful looks. Such prejudice and ostracism have a negative impact, especially on self-esteem.
Whatever they do, they are the target of criticism – sometimes well-intentioned criticism. “Take the fashion industry,” says Anne-Marie Leclair, Partner and Vice-President, Strategy at lg2. “Now that there is greater awareness of this issue, fashion ads feature what the industry considers to be large women. But these models range from size 6 to 10, while the average in Canada is about 14.”
That is why Penningtons, in tandem with ad agency lg2, created the “Why plus size women shouldn’t do yoga” campaign.
“Penningtons works hard to provide larger customers with an enjoyable shopping experience in its stores. The aisles are wider and fitting rooms, bigger. In-store temperature is set for optimal comfort. In fact, the brand is known for offering the best in-store experience in Canada. But once shoppers left the store, there was no way to continue providing them with such support. Penningtons wanted to change all that.”
So lg2’s mandate was also a social mission.
When she examined the reasons for which large people face prejudice, Anne-Marie Leclair discovered the power of social codes. “Making a judgement is a defence mechanism against what is unacceptable to you,” she says. “Society values slimness. Over time, you adopt this value and make judgements about people who don’t seem to live up to it.”
To address the crux of the problem, lg2 decided to show that prejudices fall apart when confronted with reality. In the video produced by the agency, a number of statements, reflecting popular misconceptions about large people, appear on screen as a plus-size woman executes yoga moves with poise and elegance. The images show just how false the statements are.
The ad was a success, going viral both in Canada and the United States. In 2016, it was viewed more than 15 million times and drew more than 17,000 comments, for the most part favourable. “It’s popularity proves that our message was so meaningful that people wanted to share it,” states Anne-Marie Leclair.
It also proves that a genuine message can boost sales, as the campaign attracted many new customers into stores even though the video was not about shopping.
“The experience was also a life lesson for us,” admits Anne-Marie Leclair. “It broadened the whole team’s outlook.”