Minneapolis, Minnesota,
March 30
Michael Dane is America's favorite middle-aged, Jewish, bisexual social satirist. Or, at least one of them. Often referring to himself in the third person, he used to do standup comedy on the road, but now he just writes down funny things. His book of food humor, called "Does This Taste Funny? A Half-Baked Look at Food and Foodies," is available at Amazon.com


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MAY 7, 2012 11:14PM

and now, a word from our sponsor

Rate: 11 Flag

I've never been easily swayed by advertising. I can't think of anything I own that I bought because I saw an ad for it. That's especially true with food ads. I don’t think I’ve ever watched a commercial and then felt compelled to amend the grocery list for that week. Like most of us, in my foraging, I look for what’s on sale.

That’s why I think the only food ads on tv should be for places that deliver. Otherwise, we can kinda figure out what foods to buy on our own. Why advertise something like mayonnaise when anybody who wants mayonnaise can probably find mayonnaise when they go to the store.

And I don’t imagine many people are swayed by an ad to switch brands of mayo just because of an ad – “Hey, darling – did you notice this other brand when you were at the market? Why the hell are we eating Best Foods? Why didn’t you tell me there were other options?”

The first food ads were no doubt elaborate cave drawings meant to say things like “Og kill extra big bear. Many pieces available. Put on fire for you. Act now. When glowing orb in sky come for third time, meat gone.”


Then of course, in the Middle Ages, you would probably see hand written flyers saying things like “Get thine mutton here! Our mutton has beene worm-free for a fortnight!”

Even as late as the past century, food advertising was at least honest, by virtue of its simplicity:

It tells you where to get it, how much of it you get, and how much it costs. The main difference in ads today is the emphasis on what isn’t in the package – No Transfats! Zero cholesterol! Fifty percent less enzyme-modified hyperpolyunsaturated thiamine mononitrate than other brands! I just think that, in the past, there was a little more emphasis on what was inside the box.

The worst part of most food ads is the slogan, a particularly insidious species of earworm that can stick to your brain worse than the hook from a Hall and Oates song. So many of these are stuck in my mind that I can’t walk through the grocery store without one of them bubbling up from the depths (incidentally, the Bubble-Up slogan was “A Kiss of Lemon, A Kiss of Lime.” Seriously, I wish I didn’t know these things).

The understated slogans work best for me, like Campbell’s “Soup is good food.” That’s perfect! No made-up words, no miraculous claims, no CGI. What is it? Food. Is it good? Yeah. It’s safe to say that soup is, in a general sense, good food. And that’s all I need to know.

Or the classic, yet informative Velveeta slogan: “Colby, Swiss and Cheddar, blended all together.” Of course, listing ingredients doesn’t work for a lot of processed foods, because it’s hard to come up with clever rhymes for ‘pyridoxene hydrochloride.’

If you have a good product, you should be able to come up with a catchy slogan pretty easily. Instead, I’d like to be the guy who comes up with slogans for the kinds of foods I’ve had to buy when I’ve been broke. Like,

“It’s As Good As You’d Expect For A Dollar!” or

“It Sure Looks Like Salmon!” or

“Better Than Not Eating At All!”

I hope that when I become a world-renowned satirical food essayist (maybe I already am – how many of us can there be), I’ll get the chance to be a spokesman for something cooking-related.

“How many times have you been baffled by food-processors that have just too many functions? That’s why I’m proud to endorse the KitchenAid One-Button Mixer. No manual to read, no dials or attachments to decipher, just one big grey button! The patented ‘blade’ cuts vegetables really small, for all the times I need really small pieces of vegetables!”

I’m also thinking that for the next thing I write, I want sponsors. I’m gonna sell ad space right there in my book. If Frito-Lay wants to underwrite my next book with a few half-page ads for Ruffles, why not? Or better yet, Nutella. They could even pay me in jars of Nutella.

Who am I kidding? For the right amount of money, I’d wear a giant hazelnut costume and sing their slogan. Which, if you’re curious, is “Che mondo sarebbe senza Nutella?,” or “What would the world be without Nutella?” What, indeed?

Author tags:

mutton, slogans, ads, food, humor

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I'm with you on advertising. Though I really want to eat real salmon and I do like waffles. Great story, as always.
I'm with you on advertising. Though I really want to eat real salmon and I do like waffles. Great story, as always.
I'm with you on advertising. Though I really want to eat real salmon and I do like waffles. Great story, as always.
As for me, I enjoyed the idea of umm, umm, good; umm, umm, good--that's what Campbell's Soup is. . .
I would invest in a whole line of appliances for dummies. My new toaster has a dial for how toasted you really want it. It's too much! I just want toast.

Food for thought, sir, food for thought. /R
I for one, am motivated not to buy something by a stupid commericial that I hate.
Chrylser has had a huge tunaround by a brilliant ad campaign called "Imported from Detroit" Yea!

As a Catholic raised to fear fire and brimstrone, I once thought of a Jewish congration with a sign
"join our community and never worry about hell again!"
But I thought Soup was good food. Good one MC!
When people go to buy, (to take your example), mayonnaise, they tend as a group to buy the kind of mayonnaise that's most familiar to them. Even if a kind they're not familiar with is cheaper. And it doesn't matter whether it's familiar because of 400 hours of commercials or because it's what you've been buying for 10 years. Companies keep advertising at you because, in aggregate, it works.
Maybe you should do a column on food theme songs.
Every year when I watch the Super Bowl, I always suspect the big companies are throwing their money away with their big ads. Are people suddenly going to switch to Budweiser or Pepsi because of a clever commercial? Shoppers either have a loyalty to a brand or they buy what's on sale. Nothing Lexus can say in an ad would convince me buy one unless those words were, "We'll make the payments for you!"

But if you put on the hazelnut costume, make sure you make it your avatar.
I'm with you, I buy what's on sale and what I know I like. Soup is good food, indeed.
Advertising is propaganda!!

It may have started out as a way to promote products but it has evolved into a system that is designed to saturate the information market with misinformation to make it as hard as possible for consumers to get accurate information.

Furthermore consumers have to pay for it since it is a business expense, but they have no right to accuracy in advertising, nor are there rights to free speech protected as well as the advertisers.

And perhaps worst of all propaganda works best when it starts young; which is why they're targeting children and even saturating schools with propaganda either on Channel One or elsewhere. I went into this in more detail while reviewing Roy Fox's book "Harvesting Minds" where he demonstrates overwhelmingly how much damage is being done to the education system by advertising and there are more researchers that have provided additional material on the subject but you won't hear that from the corporate media that gets their money from advertising.

Advertising expenses have been going through the roof and manufacturing and service expenses have been cut to the bone and the consumers are getting the shaft from the corporate oligarchies.