The Alliance of Girls' Schools (Australiasia) (AGSA) has invited the CEO of weight-loss giant Jenny Craig to speak at an upcoming conference to inspire educators.

Understandably, groups like "Enlighten Education, which works with girls in schools on self-esteem and body image" and "eating disorder clinic BodyMatters Australasia" have voiced concerns. The latter has organised an online petition.

Petition organisers say regardless of what Ms Smith is talking about, having the Jenny Craig CEO speaking at the conference “legitimises the diet industry and sends a strong message to educators that weight is what matters most. One could just as easily have the CEO of a tobacco company present an "inspiring" talk on their business success”.

While there is no doubt about the valuable experience and inspiring stories leaders of large weight-loss/tobacco companies can share, there is a dilemma with linking these products and brands directly to education.

As we know from tobacco advertising, explicit and directly mentioning/showing of a product is not mandatory to its successful promotion. When the CEO of Jenny Craig comes to speak, the brand will be bandied about. When the attending educators subsequently discuss the talk, with each other or in the classroom, it is also likely that the brand will come up. Every thing someone does under a brand is a branding exercise!

So was this a reasonable move by AGSA? Or a misstep? If the speaker were the CEO of Philip Morris or Diageo (the world's largest producer of spirits), would that make a difference? How about the CEO of a global fashion house? Or from a womens' magazine that promotes warped body image ideals?

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