|Title:||'Life. Be in it' fitness campaign|
|Subtitle:||Norm cartoon character|
|Keywords:||health, fitness, exercise, advertising campaigns, two-dimensional animation, cell animation, cartoons, walking, public health, 'Life. Be in it.' campaign|
|Record creator:||Australian Information Service, Canberra|
|Reference:||A6180 , 4/5/77/19|
This black-and-white cartoon drawn by Alex Stitt is from the 1977 ‘Life. Be in it’ national public health campaign. It contains four cells and depicts the character of Norm in four progressive stages: sitting in an armchair with his legs up and a can of beer in his hand; getting out of his chair with the ‘Life. Be in it’ slogan on the television screen; stepping away from the chair and the television set; and finally walking. The cartoon is titled 'Norm's walk'.
This cartoon is part of the pioneering 'Life. Be in it' public health initiative developed and implemented by the Victorian Department of Youth, Sport and Recreation in 1975. The campaign was adopted by the Australian Government in 1978 and became a high profile national campaign, supported subsequently by each state and territory. The federal Cabinet modestly funded the program at a time of rising health costs and increased budget cuts but withdrew financial support after 1981.
The cartoon encourages increased participation in everyday physical activities such as walking, an emphasis developed in response to international research that found public health campaigns encouraging active recreation were more likely to succeed over campaigns emphasising formal exercise. Low fitness levels and rising health costs in the community at the time were behind the 'Life. Be in it' campaign’s impetus to raise awareness on the issue.
The cartoon depicts the character of Norm as a lethargic, beer-bellied, middle-aged couch potato, more interested in watching telly than doing formal exercise. Those who associated fitness with effort or difficulty could easily identify with Norm who, as this cartoon illustrates, finds he is able to integrate exercise into his daily routine and increase his own wellbeing with the minimum of effort. Norm has since become a cult figure in Australian popular culture.
By 1977, when this cartoon appeared, the campaign had created a broad awareness within the Victorian community of the benefits of increased participation in low-key physical activity. However, its success in prompting behavioural or attitudinal change is less certain. While death rates from cardiovascular disease have fallen steadily since 1977, the number of Australians living with cardiovascular disease and obesity has increased.
This cartoon was designed and drawn by animator Alexander 'Alex' Stitt (1937-) as part of a campaign devised by advertising company Monahan Dayman Adams (MDA). Writer and broadcaster Phillip Adams (1939–) was a principal member of the firm and had the original idea for 'Norm'. Adams and Stitt were behind the equally successful 'Slip! Slop! Slap!' sun-smart campaign produced for the Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria, featuring the memorable animated character Sid the seagull.
© Education Services Australia Ltd and National Archives of Australia, 2007-10