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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Eat your broccoli

Packaged food manufacturers are feeling some heat from attention in recent years to the health impact of their products. I've been seeing a series of ads lately from Mars, the major chocolate maker, that address these concerns head-on. Here's one:

After a moment, the text changes to "It makes an occasional treat taste even better."

Do you think these ads might be designed to fail? I realize it's supposed to be a little bit cheeky, but I think Mars knows quite well that suggesting that people eat more broccoli instead of chocolate is most likely to make people think of how much they'd like some chocolate.

It's also possible that they are designed to fail in a second, more subtle way. "Eat more broccoli" is a crude form of the message that's been coming from public health advocates, and it sounds lecturing. By telling people to eat their broccoli (even somewhat jokingly), it helps remind people how much they hate being told what to eat. It seems quite likely to me that this particular presentation is calculated to make policymakers feel like they'll be perceived as lecturing if they impose nutrition/labeling/etc. standards on the industry. I think I've only seen these ads in the Washington Post, and it would only heighten my suspicion if they aren't appearing elsewhere.

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