Sep 26, 2007

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Although our emphasis here is Information Operations as a military and government enterprise, occasionally we like to direct readers' attention to particularly effective or noteworthy influence activities slightly further afield.

Public health propaganda has a long history of campaigns of varying effectiveness -- from often risible VD films and pamphlets to the decades of anti-smoking and anti-drug abuse crusades.

Private industry -- with the exception of occupational safety initiatives -- has generally played second fiddle to government efforts in the health information field. But when private companies see fit to get involved, the result can be quite innovative.

An Italian fashion chain has stoked controversy with an advertisement featuring a naked anorexic woman. The ad, which is intended to raise awareness about eating disorders, is timed to coincide with Milan fashion week.

Back in 1992, photographer Oliviero Toscani caused controversy around the world with his pictures of a man dying of AIDS which formed part of a Benetton advertising campaign. Now he is back in the headlines with an equally shocking image of a naked anorexic woman, which a fashion chain is using to raise awareness about eating disorders.

The Nolita advertisement, timed to coincide with Milan fashion week, appeared Monday in Italian newspapers, including a two-page center spread in La Repubblica, and on billboards in Italy. A slogan above the naked photograph reads "No Anorexia."

Flash&Partners, the fashion group that owns the Nolita brand, said in a statement that Toscani's aim was "to use that naked body to show everyone the reality of this illness, caused in most cases by the stereotypes imposed by the world of fashion."

The woman in the photo is Isabelle Caro from France, who is 27 years old and has been anorexic for 15 years. She weighs a mere 31 kg (68 lb) and suffers from the skin disease psoriasis. "I hid myself and covered myself up for too long," she told the magazine Vanity Fair in an interview to be published Wednesday. "Now I want to show myself without fear, even though I know my body is repugnant."

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