Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Transgressions


The National Eating Disorder Association’s (NEDA’s) media watchdog program, which began in 1997, targets advertising that portrays unhealthy messages about body shape and size, with the understanding that such messages may contribute to the incidence of eating disorders. According to NEDA, over 50% of the protested ad campaigns have been discontinued as the result of such advocacy.

In 2002, when I first learned of, and became involved in, the campaign, I met with female students at a local university in order to get their feedback on the ad above. The promotion, for Nutri-Grain breakfast bars, features a slim, attractive woman with two cinnamon buns affixed to her rear end. You may remember similar television ads, including one, this time whose subject was male, who wore a frosted doughnut wrapped around his middle.

Aside from the obvious untruth (cinnamon buns don’t land directly on your buns, nor doughnuts on your waist, and it’s exactly this type of thinking that encourages people to seek out widely proliferated, but highly ineffective, techniques for “spot reduction”), what struck me most about this ad, and when led to the most interesting discussion at the college, was the copy, which does away with subtlety and diplomacy and instead bodes consumers to “Respect yourself in the morning.”

Lest this be unclear, eating a Nutri-Grain breakfast bar allows you to maintain your self-respect. Eating a cinnamon bun (or two), quite obviously akin to engaging in an unplanned, unladylike, orgiastic feast the night before, does not.

It’s interesting, this juxtaposition of food and morality (sprinkled with a healthy dose of sex) that seems to repeatedly be played out in our thoughts and conversations. “I was good” or “I was bad” don’t have anything to do with characterological or behavioral transgressions, but instead with what we ate. It’s not surprising that Madison Avenue caught on, recognizing that how we rate ourselves morally, and how we feel about ourselves in general, is largely tied to what we eat. Breakfast bar or cinnamon bun? Madonna or whore? You make the call. . . .

8 comments:

PalmTreeChick said...

That cinnamon bun commercial actually makes me crack up. I love it, and I admit it! I can see your point though.

As for "spot reduction," it just doens't exist.

Teacher lady said...

I am so glad you addressed this. I remember seeing that ad in a magazine and thinking, "WTF?" I found it REALLY offensive, for all the reasons you just listed.

ps22 said...

This ad just makes me want a cinnamun bun. Pictures of cinnamon buns (no matter where they are propped) make them look so scrumptious to me - and I actually don't like them that much! Talk about visual appeal. As for nutri grain bars, they taste like crap. No wonder they had to resort to such pathetic advertising techniques. Not only is the ad campaign unethical and socially irresponsible, it's just plain stupid. Couldn't a slew of Madison Avenue MBA's come up with something more clever than that? Puh-lease.

Beth said...

I agree with PTC, that's a funny commercial. NEDA has become way too overzealous with their media watchdog program, as it seems they try to discourage freedom of expression on order to be politically correct. The ad didn't offend or trigger me, but could possibly remind me not to binge on a bunch of cinnamon rolls and therefore "respect myself" in the morning for not bingeing. However, a nutrigrain bar is a bunch of fake, sugary, chemical crap so I could always binge on those just as well. What offends me is the constant presence of ultra svelte females in ads (tv included) for everything from allergy meds, to wrinkle cream, to Disneyland, to even ice cream! If its so acceptable to be a size 12, then where are these women in non aesthetic related ads? Also, I wish NEDA could get rid of the commercials for diet pills, diet programs, all food products (pastries, cookies, ice cream, etc), fast food, and restaurants. Its just so much back and forth of advertising from one poision to the other, and so frustrating. Does anyone agree to any extent?

littlem said...

I know for a fact that too many NutriGrain bars will make you fat.

IMO, Madison Ave banks on the fact that no one's gonna read the package label, just sheep on, listening to the murmurs from the herd.

Block it out, people!

drstaceyny said...

ptc--2nd point--exactly.

tl--I'm just glad there's an organization addressing it.

ps--mmmm. . . cinnamon buns. . . ; )

beth--to answer your last question: YES!

lm--good advice. . .

katrina said...

I remember those ads. I just hated them!

sperle said...

the cinnamon buns are definitely offensive. and it is ridiculous that Nutri-Grain bars are expected to be somewhat healthy.

but is it so ridiculous and offensive to want to treat your body with respect by eating healthily? True, Nutrigrain bars arent "healthy" but eating a Nutrigrain bar for breakfast is a lot healthier than eating a cinnamon bun.