Stengel Joins Ad Council's Childhood Obesity Effort

Former P&G CMO Acknowledges Challenges Posed by White House's 'Let's Move' Campaign

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BATAVIA, Ohio ( -- Former Procter & Gamble Co. Chief Marketing Officer Jim Stengel has been tapped by the Ad Council to help lead the group's effort behind First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" campaign against childhood obesity, leading what's becoming the biggest effort ever in the area.

Jim Stengel
Jim Stengel
Mr. Stengel, who left P&G in 2008 after leading marketing efforts behind the company's biggest growth spurt ever, is working to assemble a strong cast of agency and media players in the effort, he said, including TBWA, Ogilvy & Mather, McCann-Erickson and Casanova Pendrill. They will be looking to build on the considerable work already done for the White House, including a logo, a website and public service announcements, by SS&K, New York, which is also continuing to work on the program, he said.

The goal of "Let's Move" is getting children to eat better and exercise more, said Mr. Stengel, now a Cincinnati-based marketing consultant and adjunct professor of marketing at UCLA.

He acknowledged some irony, given his previous work and that of the players involved.

Mr. Stengel formerly worked on marketing for P&G's snack food Pringles and some other high-calorie products, since divested by P&G, such as Sunny Delight and Jif. TBWA works for cola marketer PepsiCo and candy marketer Mars. Ogilvy and Casanova handle Nestle sweets, while McCann does work for Coca-Cola.

The media companies likely to be involved are often in the business of creating TV and digital programs that encourage kids to stay inside rather than go outside and play.

And the federal government's U.S. Department of Agriculture has been roundly criticized for years because of a school-lunch program laden with high-carbohydrate, corn-based foods.

'Behavior change'
"The answer to all this is going to be behavior change," Mr. Stengel said. "We need to understand what led to the issue we have of childhood obesity and what are the attitudes and lifestyle and behaviors we think are addressable."

Ultimately, the answer lies in "balance," he said. "But balance is too generic a word. We're going to want to offer some creative inspirations and actions people will want to take to lead a healthier life and have more balance in their activity and what they want to eat."

Combating childhood obesity may be the biggest challenge he's ever faced as a marketer.

"Of all the things I did at P&G over the years, the toughest stuff was habit change," he said. "That's why [such campaigns] have a higher failure rate. But when you get it right, it's big."

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