Anti-Obesity PSA: Money Well Spent… Elsewhere

The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s latest public service announcement (PSA) is drawing fire for its graphic display of, uh, something really disgusting.

The ad is meant to discourage consumers from drinking sugary beverages, and shows a man drinking a delicious glass of putrid lard. It says that drinking one can of soda every day “Can make you 10 pounds fatter a year.”

Here, take a look:

The YouTube video quickly went viral, and was picked up by every one of the city’s major media outlets, with wonderful reaction shots from shocked New Yorkers.

But the question to me isn’t whether or not the ad went too far. I’m thick-skinned, and personally I agree with the ad’s message.

But the incident did set a lightbulb off in my head: should the city even be spending money on PSAs like this – or others – when we’re in financial straights? Is this the best use of taxpayer money? I think not.

The $50,000 price tag for this video was, thankfully, paid for by a private donor. But it’s a spinoff from a campaign done last year. That campaign plastered the city’s subway system with a photo of a soda bottle being poured into a glass of lard, and the words “Are you pouring on the pounds?”

That campaign cost $277,000 to produce, and only the placement of the ad was taken up by donors, according to the New York Times. It appeared in 1,500 subway cars for a three month run. (One subway car for one month costs $70,000. But the donor only put up $90,000, so we’re wondering where the rest of the funds came from.) And, of course, those ad placements could be taken up by private companies and help pad our transit system from further financial problems.

What do you think? Should the city keep pouring money into PSAs even during tough times? Do they even work?