I grew up in a small town, population 15000 if you counted every cow in the valley. Every morning I’d hear my dad walk in the kitchen, pour his first cup of coffee and turn on the radio. Paul Harvey’s voice wafted into my bedroom regularly, and along with that smell of fresh brewed Folgers, became a thread in the fabric of my childhood. I didn’t know anything about Paul Harvey’s politics, but I loved the way he owned a pregnant pause.
On Sunday, Harvey’s voice was featured on a Super Bowl ad for Dodge Ram trucks featuring imagery of farmers. The audio was condensed from a 1978 speech Harvey made to the Future Farmers of America. I grew up in a rural town, my dad was born on a farm, and he and my mom opened a buffalo ranch when he retired from his career as a university professor. About the time my parents returned to a life on the land, I started working for FoodHub, a project of the nonprofit Ecotrust, which is a platform dedicated to connecting small and medium farmers with chefs, schools and other wholesale food buyers in their area. As a food system reformer and marketing professional, I had a visceral reaction to the ad. Read more
To call McDonald’s latest advertising campaign aimed at children cynical doesn’t give enough credit to the fast food giant and its ad agency, Leo Burnett. The company says the new series of ads starting this month is part of McDonald’s “nutrition commitment to promote nutrition and/or active lifestyle messages in 100 percent of its national communications to kids.”
How will the purveyor of Big Macs, fries and Coke accomplish this lofty goal? Perhaps by explaining that McDonald’s is an occasional treat? Or that sharing home-cooked meals is one of the best ways for families to ensure good eating habits? Perhaps McDonald’s could educate kids about the federal MyPlate recommendations to make half your meal fruits and vegetables?
Not even close. McDonald’s idea of nutrition education is simple: just eat at McDonald’s. Read more
An effort to get American children to eat more fruits and vegetables should, even in hyper-polarized Washington, be a no-brainer. Last week, Congress declared pizza sauce to be a vegetable in school lunches. Now, major food manufacturers are escalating their attacks against healthy food calling proposed food marketing guidelines “job killers” that will devastate the American economy. Read more
In what is the most comprehensive analysis of fast food nutrition and marketing to date, the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity released a study Monday indicting fast food restaurants for aggressive marketing campaigns targeted to youth and other vulnerable groups, and a lack of readily available healthy options on their menus. Read more
On October 15th, the trade publication The Packer reported on an issue of growing concern for farmers market vendors and shoppers: grocery chains are copy-catting farmers markets by using “farmers market” signs outside of their stores. The Wall Street Journal had previously reported on the issue, including retailers that use the term “farmers market” in their name, like Sprouts Farmers Market and Sunflower Farmers Market. Farmers in Washington State interviewed about the phenomenon seemed dismayed that retail chains “want to attract people and give the illusion that there are all these small farmers there.”
Kathy Means, vice president of government relations and public relations for the Produce Marketing Association defended the sale of produce at grocery chains under the name “farmers market” as a “legitimate marketing tactic.” Aside from military connotations, ‘tactics’ are generally defined as “isolated actions or events that take advantage of opportunities offered by the gaps within a given strategic system.” The Farmers Market Coalition opposes marketing tactics that cloud the truth. Taking advantage of the public by leveraging the term out of context is not only misleading, but, I believe, illustrates an unfortunate failure of creativity. Read more
When Yeo Valley Organic in the UK set to make an ad about their dairy products, they wanted to inspire people to pronounce the name correctly (it’s pronounced “yo”) and to get people talking about the brand. Of course, this led them to rapping about “cows, tractors and wax jackets” in a much talked about two minute music video. Read more
Wonder why childhood obesity is such a pervasive problem? Take a look at newly released data showing that children ages two to 18 get 40 percent of their daily caloric intake from junk foods like soda, sugary fruit drinks, pizza, cakes, cookies, donuts, and ice cream and wonder no more. That’s nearly half of their daily calories, or 800 calories a day based on a 2000-calorie diet. Call this a triumph for the food industry—a business that has mastered the art of making people eat more and more nutritionally void food—and a tragedy for our nation’s children. Read more
If you can’t beat ‘em…confuse them. That seems to be the new motto of our good friends at the Corn Refiners Association, the lobbying group and manufacturing association that represents makers of high-fructose corn syrup. The AP is reporting that the group has petitioned the FDA for permission to identify high-fructose corn syrup on food packaging as–wait for it–”corn sugar.”
After all, HFCS sales are at a 20-year low. More and more, science is indicating that the body metabolizes HFCS differently from table sugar in a way that increases the risk of diabetes, liver disease, and obesity. (Yes, we consume too many sweeteners of all kinds, but as I wrote in this recent post, there is evidence that this industrially extracted combination of fructose and glucose has more health consequences than the ones that humans have been consuming for far longer.) Read more
It was a seminal moment. For the first time, breaking all convention, Ronald turned to the TV cameras and addressed himself to his viewers directly. It had never been done before, and it set off a revolution the consequences of which we still struggle to fight. When Ronald Reagan ended his presidential debate with Jimmy Carter in 1979 with “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”, his media savvy changed mass politics forever.
But long before that, another Ronald messed with mass communications no less indelibly, paving the way for today’s politicians and pundits. Read more