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The Thin Side of Annoying Advertising to Women


Bagel thinsThe other night I woke up around 2 and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I put on my glasses and pulled a magazine into bed. Because my glasses are the wrong prescription, I didn’t even notice the text at the bottom until the next morning, so I found myself awake and obsessed with wanting to know what is going on this picture. At first I thought it was two women having breakfast in their pajamas and was, like, “Oh cool—a lesbian couple enjoying a lazy breakfast at home together? How progressive!” But why is one of them laughing like she’s in pain? Then I noticed they were not in PJS. So maybe these women are at work? Oh, no, that looks like a cute window-seat in the background, so it’s at someone’s home. Then I saw the third plate. There has to be a third (at least) because two women having breakfast at home together is just too much for 2014 mainstream advertising, apparently.

So of course I assumed brunch, and an email invitation:

“Hey ladies, here comes the sun…So—I just bought a box of these Bagel Thins. Guess you could say I’m feeling kind of fat and curious after this long, heteronormative winter couped up with my husband and kids in this spotless house. Is it just me or is keeping the whites white exhausting? Anyway, brunch at my place? This month’s theme will be Nothing Over 150 Calories. I don’t know about you, but I need to lose at least 10 pounds before even trying on last year’s tankini.”

Anyway, to Thomas’ credit, they explain the brunch scenario at the bottom of the page, so my wonderment and rambling is somewhat unwarranted. Also, I have nothing against tankinis, if they’re even a thing anymore. I was just sleep-deprived and cranky.

Still, I’m annoyed by the forced-looking laughter. Why do women always have to be laughing in food ads? Food and eating it with your friends can be fun, but this looks more, “I’m dying inside because 110 calories cannot fill the void but maybe if I fake it I will start to feel satisfied with less because I am a woman and that’s what we’re supposed to do and I don’t want anyone to think there’s something wrong with me…”

I know I’m being a bit hyperbolic, but it’s been one of those weeks. At least this is a step up from women laughing alone with salad. I’m not asking for a “serious” Bagel Thin brunch or anything like Sex Toy Party Brunch at which Bagel Thins happen to be served, but come on. I wonder what a Bagel Thin ad would look like if it were being marketed to the male of the species…

What do you think of this ad? Advertising geared towards women in general? Describe a Bagel Thins for Bros ad. 

“Classic Kombucha”

This “Classic” Kombucha business really cracks me up. I guess 0.5% alcohol still counts, but seriously?! Anything to be able to charge more or find a new angle to sell something to a niche market…Hah, “black label” kombucha. Too bad it tastes so good. Kombucha classic

I may or may not be a little disappointed I did not get carded. over 21 kombucha

Do you like kombucha? If you do, what’s your favorite variety? 

Health Groups Ask Nickelodeon to Limit Junk Food Ads

My in my Nickelodeon days—I'm the one freaking out in the orange bow

My in my Nickelodeon/Nick Jr. days—I’m the one freaking out in the orange bow

Though I don’t have TV now, I watched a lot of Nickelodeon as a kid, and some of the commercials are almost as memorable as the shows themselves. Because it was the late 80′s, early 90′s, I also remember being told every few hours that you can’t get AIDS from sharing a hot dog with someone.

Memory certainly is a strange thing, isn’t it?

Of the commercials that I remember most clearly, cereal and fruit snacks advertisements top the list. Though it’s been a while since I’ve watched children’s TV, it’s hardly news that the marketing of junk food to children hasn’t gotten any better.

More than 80 health groups, doctors, and nutritionists  just sent a letter urging Nickelodeon and its parent company, Viacom, to adopt stricter standards for its advertisers to children. On her blog, Food Politics, Marion Nestle, who was among the letter-writers, discusses the need for such standards and other efforts to develop guidelines.

What do you think of food advertisements on children’s television networks and/or food marketing to kids? 

Thanks for the coupons, but…

Perhaps I’m a little bit paranoid after reading this article in the New York Times Magazine last weekend, but I have to wonder what suddenly made the Whole Foods I’ve been shopping at for four years start thinking I’m feeding a family. Is it that I started buying organic milk this year? 

Thanks for the coupons, Whole Foods, but please don’t rush me.

I don’t even know what to make of the Victoria’s Secret catalog I got recently that was addressed to the Cording Family. It must be the lacy stuff I ordered when it was on sale back in November…Ew. Now I’m a little creeped out. Time to stop thinking about it.

Do you ever get weird coupons? 

Have you tried the new Peanut Butter Cheerios?

I don’t know what it is this week, but I’ve had cereal on the brain—cereal monogamy, to be specific. For someone who writes about food so much, sometimes my own living-under-a-rock-ness astounds me. For example, I had no idea there were so many varieties of Cheerios out there. Chocolate? Dulche de Leche? Peanut Butter?  I’m intrigued.

Because I’m kind of a nerd, I wanted to check these out online before adding them to my shopping list. I’m glad I did. While I’m all for whole grain cereal, and the nutrition stats and ingredient lists are not completely terrifying, sugar is still one of the first four ingredients  for most of these flavors (corn syrup, brown rice syrup, and other sweeteners are also on the list). The artificial coloring is kind of a drag too.

I’m sure I’m not the first to say it seems like there’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing thing going on, with sugary cereals basking in the “healthy glow” shoppers associate with Cheerios. Okay, that’s a little melodramatic, but you know what I mean. It’s only cereal, I know, but it still bugs me to see artificial stuff on the list. Read More »

New Campaign Says Milk Can Help Treat PMS

PMS is one of those things that is at once a little uncomfortable to talk about, a big freaking deal, and a potentially lucrative marketing tie-in. 

A new campaign from the California Milk Processor Board (CMPB) attempts to appeal to both women suffering from PMS and the people around them by milk may help alleviate the symptoms of PMS. There’s also a Web site — Everything I Do is — and a social-media campaign. In California, there are billboards as well as radio and print ads.

Though it can be hard to quantify changes in PMS symptoms in a research setting, several studies have demonstrated a link between calcium supplementation and reduced symptoms. High intake of calcium-rich foods has also been shown to have a preventive effect.

This is a topic I’ve been reading a lot about lately. Out of all the nutrients studied for the treatment of premenstrual syndrome, the evidence for calcium seems to be particularly consistent.

I’m curious to hear what others think about the way this ad presents that information. At first glance, my reaction was, “Yeah, yeah. Another PMS joke—are you really gonna make my murderous monthly rage into a campaign for milk?” But then I realized that it’s funny because it’s true. One thing I hope consumers take into consideration though is that its’ not just milk that may alleviate and prevent PMS symptoms—there’s also yogurt, cheese, and fortified nondairy beverages. I couldn’t find any research on whether calcium-rich vegetables like broccoli have been studied, but no reason not to include those too!

What’s your favorite calcium-rich food?

Mine is definitely yogurt—aka the #1 Reason I Will Never Be A Vegan

one of my many yogurt bowls/messes

FTC Releases Principles of Food Marketing to Children

The FTC finally released its highly anticipated proposed Principles of Food Marketing to Children today. These principles, which are currently open for comment, apply to children between the ages of 2 and 17 and are slotted to go into effect in 2016.

The proposal is designed to encourage children, through advertising and marketing, to choose foods that make a meaningful contribution to a healthful diet and contain at least one of the following:

  • fruit
  • vegetable
  • whole grain
  • fat-free of low-fat dairy
  • fish
  • extra lean meat or poultry
  • eggs
  • nuts and seeds
  • beans

Additionally, the foods advertised should contain minimal amounts of nutrients that have a negative impact on health or weight, including:

  • saturated fat
  • trans fat
  • added sugars
  • sodium
One thing to note is that these principles are voluntary, not mandatory. Perhaps that’s why there is nothing to be seen about how food companies might be held accountable for their marketing to children. While I think these principles are encouraging, it would be great to see something a little more ballsy. 

Annoying Yogurt Commercials

On the list of reasons I do not own a TV and prefer to download my 30-Rock through Netflix:

*Cable Bills
*Bad Reality TV
*Yogurt Commercials

Many of you who know me in person have heard me rant about how much yogurt commercials annoy me, especially the ones with women in them, which is basically the only kind of yogurt commercial you see anymore…

It’s the way they target women by either exposing or alluding to various insecurities and then shove them this product specifically engineered for them so that they can indulge in their base desires or meet their embarrassing needs while still fitting into the socially-acceptable female behavior mold.

Don’t even get me started on the whole “yogurt is the official food of women” thing. It’s a shame because I love yogurt—the good, plain, real-food version—but it nags at me that there are these big companies out there trying to get me to buy more of it. The fewer calories, the better! Because all women are “supposed” to be on a diet, right?

I know that plain, nonfat or low-fat yogurt you buy in a big container doesn’t sell as well as these cutely packaged, super-sweet weight-management products, but seriously, why can’t we just treat yogurt as what it is—A nutritious food that fits very nicely within a balanced diet?

Here are a few commercials that especially tick me off:

Never mind

I feel kind of like a dope now for actually believing for a split-second that the FTC’s December 15 forum on food marketing to kids and the proposal that I blogged about a few days ago might actually hold some promise. It never fails to amaze me how one source of media will paint a completely different picture from another. I guess during finals week I was a bit lazy about not checking various sources of important stories. Haha but at least finals are over now and I have no excuse!

If you’ve never read Marion Nestle’s blog, Food Politics, or any of her books for that matter, I’d recommend having a look—I find what she writes eye-opening. I went back a few entries today and found some more specifics on what exactly the group proposal (which I posted about a few days ago) entailed.

I’d read that it proposed restrictions on saturated fat, trans fat, sugar, and sodium for foods marketed to children, but what I hadn’t seen was what those limits were: 1 gram saturated fat or less per serving and not more than 15% of total calories; less than half a gram of trans fat per serving; no more than 13 grams of sugar per serving; and no more than 200 mg of sodium per serving.

You don’t have to be a student of dietetics to see that there are a lot, a lot of unhealthy foods can still meet these guidelines. Not only that, but there’s still a lot of discrepancy over what a serving size should be in the first place. Besides that, there’s a whole slew of other hazy details complicating the matter. Talk about a mess. While I’m glad the issue is getting some attention (not that it hasn’t been getting attention), it’s disheartening to see some of the ways in which food companies get around regulations both in place and proposed.

Federal Group Seeks to Cut Food Advertising to Children

A federal group created by Congress is looking to restrict food marketing to children to include only foods that provide “a meaningful contribution to a healthful diet,” according to their proposal. This group also wants to limit the advertising of foods and beverages high in sugar, sodium, and saturated fat, which they feel contribute to childhood obesity.

The recommendations this group is working on will be sent to Congress next year after a public comment period.

I would really like to see something like this go into effect. It drives me nuts how aggressively unhealthy foods are pushed on children, and it would be wonderful to see the government do something to curb that. What a concept.

Check out this Wall Street Journal article for more info.

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