The Advertising Standards Canada is running a bizarre kind of TV campaign that typically features a teenager caught in a lie (“ I was going to the library”) while a troupe of whacky dancers leap into frame to distract Dad, who has caught the teen in the act of sneaking out the window.
The point of the ad?
“Dressing it up doesn’t make it true,” they say — meaning that no matter how clever or creative an ad, it shouldn’t lie.
I just caught a TV ad for a soda that I think is not only full of lies, but is morally and socially reprehensible.
As most of us know, the world and our health-care system is struggling to fight ‘globesity’ — the rapid, unnatural weight gain of most world populations (certainly those in industrialized nations).
One key source of this weight gain can be directly traced to the volume of consumption of soda pop.
While pop has been with us since the late 1800s, its consumption back then was minimal. Likewise, until the mid 1970s liberation movement, there was another key factor guarding family consumption and health.
Yes, Mom was the armed guard at the fridge door. No one got into the fridge without her permission. No food went out of there without her approval and no one consumed pop unless she agreed.
Typically, Mom would let you have some soda “After you eat your dinner,” or perhaps as a treat on a hot day at the beach. And you could have pizza for dinner once in a while. It was never considered food.
Mom made the food at home — real food.
But in this ethically challenged ad, Mom is in the starring role of career woman, choosing a nice big, giant bottle of pop as the starter for dinner … accompanied by pizza for food.
You know the ad writers wanted you to think it’s healthy because they show an entire family sitting down around a table (as opposed to slouched in front of the TV). Cleverly, no kids under 12 are seen — this way the advertisers can claim they are not in contravention of child-related food ad standards (noted below).
Admittedly the family is eating junk, but the table setting gives the aura of something as warm, bonding and healthy as turkey dinner at Thanksgiving.
Basically they are telling you that Mom encourages you to drink pop as a healthy part of your meal — as a starter!
And look at the whopper glass of pop Mom is chugging — certainly at least her recommended maximum adult daily dose of 10 teaspoons of sugar! In one gulp! Yet she is depicted as slim and trim — every woman’s dream shape.
The outcome of these eating habits as a steady diet? High blood pressure. Diabetes. Obesity. Anxiety. Insulin disruption. Rotten teeth.
And rising health care costs. Costs that you get to pay for, while the people who make these products gets rich on people’s naivety.
The Ad Standards Codes require that ads “not be inaccurate or deceptive representations, either direct or implied … should not be deceptive … must not encourage dangerous practises.”
Ads that affect children (as all ‘Mom’ ads do), “must not exploit their credulity, lack of experience or their sense of loyalty, and must not present information or illustrations that might result in their physical, emotional or moral harm” and “should ensure that advertisements representing mealtime clearly and adequately depict the role of the product within the framework of a balanced diet, and snack foods are clearly presented as such, not as substitutes for meals” and “if an advertisement depicts food being consumed by a person in the advertisement … the quantity of food shown should not exceed the labelled serving size on the Nutrition Facts Panel” … “the quantity of food shown should not exceed a single serving size that would be appropriate for consumption by a person of the age depicted.”
I’d say no matter how they dress this one up, the ad contravenes every one of these codes.
The nation is rejoicing at having more gruesome labelling on cigarettes to warn of health dangers.
I think it is time to put similar gruesome images and big warning signs on junk food — especially sugary drinks like pop. And certainly this ad should be axed for turning Mom into a meal-time pusher of a health hazard — pop.
Complaints can be lodged online http://www.adstandards.com/en/ConsumerComplaints/theConsumerComplaintsProcess.aspx
Michelle Stirling-Anosh is a Ponoka-based freelance columnist.