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Mark Materacky talks about Novo Nordisk and Queen Latifah’s “It's Bigger Than Me” campaign to change the way the world looks at and discusses obesity.
While more than 40% of adults in the United States — 100 million people — live with obesity, it’s often discussed with shame. Novo Nordisk has partnered with singer and actress Queen Latifah to launch an unbranded campaign, It’s Bigger Than Me, to lower the stigma around the condition.
The campaign takes on the issue via online resources and a video series, with Queen Latifah opening up about her experience (as well as that of her friends and family) of living with obesity. To learn more about it, Pharm Exec caught up recently with Novo Nordisk’s VP of consumer marketing, Mark Materacky.
Pharm Exec: Can you outline the concept behind the “It’s Bigger Than Me” campaign and how it was developed?
Mark Materacky: This movement began with a simple concept: that obesity is an issue that is bigger than we think. It’s bigger than you. It’s bigger than me. But it’s not bigger than all of us when we work together. Our mission is to help people to understand that obesity is a manageable health condition, not a character flaw. By creating better understanding that biology & genetics play a role in weight management, alongside diet and other factors, we can start shifting the societal conversation away from shame, blame and bias to one centered on empathy, compassion and support.
What is the ultimate goal of the campaign from Novo Nordisk’s perspective?
“It’s Bigger Than Me” is an urgent call to action to change perceptions about living with excess weight or obesity, framing it as an issue that’s bigger than any one individual. We want to change the way the world discusses, sees, treats and understands obesity. We want the world to know that, through science and understanding, obesity is a manageable health condition.
Why and how was Queen Latifah selected to be the spokesperson for the campaign? Has she been involved in the development of the content beyond acting as the “front woman”?
Queen Latifah embodies the spirit of this campaign — trusted, bold, confident and strong. Through It’s Bigger Than Me, we want people to be inspired, but they also need to aspire to change. Queen Latifah is the perfect person to both inspire the public and give them something to aspire to. Queen Latifah is asking us to face the fears we all have around weight while conveying that she can relate to our collective feelings. We too can be that brave!
Queen Latifah played a very active role in the campaign and brought in her friend, award winning director, Chris Robinson, to direct the four-part video series. The story was developed and closely inspired by the Queen Latifah we know and love on television and the big screen.
Through our first three video segments, we creatively educate viewers about the myths which exist around obesity, affecting our minds, bodies and our society. What we mean by that is: there are misperceptions about obesity in our minds where weight is all too often accompanied by shame and blame, from the point of view of others and ourselves. There are misconceptions in our bodies because the biology of obesity and impact of weight on our health is not just our willpower. And finally, that there are myths that exist in our society and can be found in the way weight is portrayed and written about in media and popular culture.
The viewers don’t get the full story until our reveal at the end of the video series. We move from one vignette to the other without addressing the switch in genre. We use camera movement to create a natural flow through the spaces and move with Queen Latifah through her magical “It’s Bigger Than Me” world.
Is there a particular section of the obese population that this campaign is aimed at?
Our target is anyone who has ever felt bad about their weight or ever wondered why they struggle to lose weight. It’s also their family, friends, co-workers and loved ones who just want to help and support their individual weight journey. This movement offers a new perspective and helps to provide the knowledge to understand that weight isn’t a character flaw, it’s a manageable health condition.
What kind of reaction have you had to the campaign so far, both from the public and from healthcare professionals?
The initial feedback has been incredible, which shows the importance of this issue. We look forward to continuing to raise awareness and advocate for people living with obesity.
We felt this was the right moment to start this movement given the societal shift to being more understanding toward obesity. In tandem with that, there has been a great deal of recent progress in recognizing the harm that body shaming has on an individual and an appreciation of the inclusion of people who represent those with heavier weight in advertisements and across media, but that is not enough. It’s Bigger Than Me is designed to be a community effort which can spark lasting change.