It's just food

Hot on the heels of my reference to the banned LynxJet ad here is another commercial that has been banned, this time in the UK. While there might be a similarity in the themes - a sort of renaissance of the 'real' man the reason for the censoring was quite different - complaints were received over the representation of the burger's size. Or should I say misrepresentation? Blogger Simon Law of the UK points out that the banning of the ad was based on 12 complaints, representing 'roughly 0.000025% of the British population'.

It seems a cruel distortion that such a small number of dissenting voices can distort the reality of the majority of a population. It seems to give an extraordinary power to a few people who might be selected to sit on a standards board. I don't know who these people in the UK, but here in New Zealand the Advertising Standards Authority has a complaints board comprised of worthies from the community. Their brief biographies suggest they are selected on the basis of their 'community standing', rather than their representation of the community. That might seem like a trivial point but it is significant in some ways. I don't see the names of any Asian people or Pacific Islanders (though I admit relying on names is no indication of ethnicity), I'd also have to ask whether youth are represented (who can be really quite sensible and uncorrupted by 'experience' and dinner party preferences).

It is often asked whether advertising has the ability to change the behaviour of a society or whether advertising simply reflects it?

Having been involved with advertising in one form or another as a practitioner I can't recall when I ever set out to change the world with an ad campaign. Not even when I was very young and just wanted to change the world.

Quite simply I never had a budget big enough. The best you could hope for might be to change the behaviour of a small group within society and hope that their attitudes towards the brand I represented might be changed sufficiently that they would begin to prefer it - possibly even recommend the brand to others. Not a very insidious process is it? To media savvy people the process is also relatively transparent, they become attuned to things like hyperbole and the exaggerated use of humour to engage - such as the Tui Beer commercials (oops, yet another campaign that's not exactly PC).

The fear that advertising messages might have a corrupting effect on society seems corrupt in itself. The current view, held by some lobby groups, that advertising 'junk' food should be banned holds a dangerous precedent that goes back to the 0.000025% representation anomaly.

The truth is that no food is junk food. It's just food.

Eating too much of particular kinds of food can be unhealthy and failing to burn the fuel with some equivalent level of activity is unhealthy, but the advertising message is, at least neutral.

Unlike cigarettes, the advertising of which is, quite rightly, not permitted, food is not addictive and to argue that it is is simply rot. The choice to eat convenience food is just that - a choice. The advertising helps people to choose one brand over another.

This argument will infuriate some people, particularly those 0.000025% with an axe to grind or those who piously think they know better than the 99.99975% who feel entirely capable of making up their own minds.

As a footnote I have to admit that I am a few kilos overweight and I do occasionally eat convenience food. But I take responsibility for my behaviour and realise that anything I stick in my gob is my choice, as is the choice to blog rather than walk or swim.

I wonder how many of the complaints about the Burger King ad were from competitors? Just a thought.

This is not for the faint of heart, the true meaning of gross. Funny though.


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