The stark and hard-hitting Children's Healthcare of Atlanta campaign against childhood obesity struck a nerve among fans that applauded the straight talk and critics that said it was heavy-handed.
Now a very vocal and socially savvy subset of them, mommy bloggers, have struck back.
Last week, a group of them rolled out an organic social media campaign petitioning the hospital's Strong4Life program, which orchestrated the ads, to stop using them, claiming that in the words of one blogger, "shame is no motivator."
Using the hashtag #Ashamed on Twitter, they executed a far-reaching and resonating social barrage with the help of the maternal online hub Resourceful Mommy. The “Twitter Party” was the brainchild of Leah Segedie, an influential blogger and social media maven who runs Mamavation, an online support group for mothers.
“When I first saw the Strong4Life billboards, my first reaction was wanting to cry and sleep in my room and eat a box of Twinkies. It touched me that much,” she said in an email interview with HLN.
“I was an overweight child. Later a morbidly obese adult and then lost over 100 lbs. after I had children. I remembered what types of messages caused shame and what messages inspired me. Messages that caused shame made me ‘shut down’ and either NOT listen or go to food as an outlet to make me feel better,” she said.
According to Trendistic, a site that tracks Twitter topics, #Ashamed topped out at appearing in nearly 0.07% of roughly 200 million Tweets that day.
According to Segedie, 544 social media moms joined in the campaign, amassing nearly 5,000 tweets about the issue. In data supplied to HLN from TweetReach, an analytical tool, the campaign garnered 23 million potential impressions in one hour.
While a Children's Healthcare spokeswoman did not immediately respond to an interview request Tuesday, earlier this month Stephanie Walsh, the hospital's medical director of child wellness and a facilitator of the Strong4Life program, told HLN that the public response -- whether positive or negative -- was beneficial in spreading the message.
“I really try to focus on the fact that people are talking about this. We needed this to become front and center,” she said. “We needed to start tackling this as a community. Everybody.”
But the loudest and most vocal messengers have been those who see the ads as off-putting to kids and parents of obese children.
Segedie said the campaign has shown results: She is "communicating directly" with Strong4Life to help them create social media mom groups that can filter the second phase of the Strong4Life campaign “to protect children in the state of Georgia from shame tactics.”
“So yes, I’m on it,” she said.