Cheerios’ anti-diet mission

In its latest campaign focused on the health and wellness of young girls, Multi-Grain Cheerios goes head-to-head with "dietainment."
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This story appears in the July/August 2015 issue of strategy.

Want to drop five pounds before the weekend? Try this one trick to eliminate belly fat.

These kinds of messages have become a staple in today’s mediascape, but imagine how a young girl might feel reading them.

“Threats to our children’s well-being are hidden in plain sight,” says Jason Doolan, marketing director, General Mills Canada.

That’s the insight behind a new campaign from Multi-Grain Cheerios, which looks to tackle what the General Mills brand has coined “dietainment,” defined as unhealthy messaging around dieting veiled as harmless entertainment (think health, lifestyle and celebrity content that fosters unhealthy eating habits).

“We’ve kind of convinced ourselves that it’s benign and clearly it is not,” says Doolan. “The research we have tells us that girls are dieting younger than ever before. It’s a pretty scary phenomenon, and we think it’s something that Multi-Grain Cheerios can have something to say about, shine a light on the issue and help create some change.”

The campaign asks consumers to sign a petition online to prevent young girls from being exposed to these messages, calling upon the media industry to take action. Working with Cossette on creative and media, TV spots kick off today and feature young girls reading “dietainment” messaging, such as “Celebrity secrets to a hot body” and “Are you ready for bikini season?” Meanwhile, the hub WorldWithoutDieting.ca houses long-form videos featuring interviews with young girls and their mothers’ reactions, as well as direct messages from the girls to publishers of “dietainment” content. “The Multi-Grain Cheerios Campaign Against Dietainment” will also be supported with a digital buy and a blogger/social media influencer campaign with the Yummy Mummy Club.

It’s the second generation of the brand’s “World Without Dieting” campaign, which kicked off in 2013, and spurred a double-digit sales lift (with an 18% peak last March), encouraging consumers to eschew cyclical dieting in favour of a healthy lifestyle and sign a petition declaring they won’t say “diet.” The brand sought to show parents they could be unknowingly passing negative behaviour around dieting to their children.