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When children promoted diet pills: The disturbing Fibre Trim story

fibretrim

Yes, there was a time when children were used to promote weight-loss products. Case in point: a prominently-aired commercial for a “natural” pill called Fibre Trim.

Fibre Trim was a magic dietary supplement that was marketed in the U.S. as an all-natural way to “stay slim.”

This commercial features two French girls, likely in their tweens, who are having a gorgeous day and sneaking into Mom’s room to play Dress-Up. Throughout their dialogue, they equate the words “beautiful” and “slim,” state the pill’s ingredients and weight-management claims, and one of the girls even implies that she’ll stay as beautiful as her mother if she uses Fibre Trim as well.

I transcribed the commercial’s subtitled dialogue:

Girl 1: Your mother is so beautiful. So slim. … Does she eat?
Girl 2: (Chuckles into a giant powder puff) Silly. just not so much. With this: (Grabs and places the bottle of Fibre Trim on the table) Fibre Trim. Made of grain and citrus.
Girl 1: Does it bother you that she’s so beautiful?
Girl 2: Not if I know her secrets.

Narrator: Fibre Trim. The European Way to help you stay slim.

Here’s the actual commercial, which ran prominently in 1985 and into 1989:

These girls were around my age at the time of its airing, and s a child, I remember thinking this commercial was so glamorous. As a young, impressionable and overweight child, I wanted so much to be as “beautiful” as these girls. I even tried the pills once because I figured they would become some kind of escape.

After several years, Fibre Trim’s manufacturer, Schering, was found to have violated the Federal Trade Commission’s rules against deceptive advertising. The analysis and decision are long and I skimmed through most of it; and primarily discusses Schering’s claims that the pill was “healthy” and actually had fiber in it, when it didn’t. There is very little mention of the “French Girls” commercial, and I didn’t see anything that extensively looked into the consequences of using children to market a diet product.

Thankfully, they don’t anymore. Whether its marketers knew it or not, that commercial was attractive to children and instilled within them the notion that to be beautiful, you must be slim and trim. If only they’d stop using such deceptive messages to lure women, too.

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  • Elizardbreath February 29, 2012, 12:22 pm

    I remember this commercial vividly. I was 18 and it bothered me even then…of course, diet pills and products were wildly promoted in the 80’s and 90’s, but for the first time…toward younger women. I attribute this to the rise of the MTV Video Vixen and spandex. Hell,just look at the first video rotation on MTV….the Tubes “She’s a Beauty video is abhorrent toward women. Supermodels like Kathy Ireland, Caroll Alt, and Cheryl Tiegs….artists like Duran Duran, Robert Palmer etc. culled supermodels for videos…supermodels were on the pages of magazines formerly looked at by older women…with the push of MTV, younger and younger women began to see skewed images of women and to see women as body arts, not as whole people. I have got to find that documentary!

    Reply
    • Bellesouth
      Twitter:
      February 29, 2012, 2:56 pm

      I know. It’s really scary to think about how things are like for young women and girls. So impressionable. Sigh.

      Reply
  • Dolores March 1, 2012, 11:48 am

    My partner and I absolutely love your blog and find most of your post’s to be just what I’m looking for. Does one offer guest writers to write content for you? I wouldn’t mind publishing a post or elaborating on a number of the subjects you write related to here. Again, awesome website!
    Dolores recently posted..mystery babylonMy Profile

    Reply
    • Bellesouth
      Twitter:
      March 1, 2012, 12:28 pm

      Hi Dolores! Please click on the “PR Friendly” tab and fill out the form. Look forward to hearing from you. :)

      Reply
  • Ang October 17, 2012, 1:28 pm

    Thank you so much for posting this! I was just thinking about this commercial the other day. I also was around the same age as these girls when it aired and I too procured a bottle to help me lose weight. I am so angry at them for filling our innocent heads with this garbage. Maybe one reason there is an obesity epidemic is because we taught our kids to diet before they even hit puberty. This company and advertising agency better hope this drink keeps them cool in Hell…

    Reply
    • Bellesouth
      Twitter:
      October 17, 2012, 1:54 pm

      Thanks for reading, Ang, and I’m glad you enjoyed the post, but sad that you were subjected to the same images I was. That was just horrible.

      Reply

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