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Tag Archives: marketing

Lose Pounds and Inches Fast!

“Eat our processed food and lose weight!”  “Join this gym and lose weight!”  “Take this pill, shake, herb, tea, suppository, and lose weight!”

And they’re off!  New Year’s is the weight loss industry’s black Friday.  Many millions are reaped throughout the year, but it is January that does wonders for the industry’s bottom line.  As our nation has grown in size so has an industry filled with an abundance of promises and zero standards.  How has this happened?

Whether one considers excessive weight to be a health, behavior or public issue is somewhat secondary to the point that the market feels free to exploit the situation.

If you feel that being overweight is a health issue, what do you make of reality television shows featuring obese contestants being humiliated as a means to bolstering their health?  Do we watch smokers and drinkers being humiliated on reality shows?  Do we honestly think that this programming is not solely about the viewer’s entertainment?  How did other people’s heartbreaking struggle with a health issue become fodder for our entertainment?

If you feel that being overweight is the result of an utter lack of self-control, what do you make of products that reinforce that disconnect between outcome and behavior?  The “behavior” camp asserts that maintaining a healthy weight is the result of not consuming more than one is using.  A sensible diet and a moderate amount of exercise is the permanent method with which to control weight.  If the federal government believes this (and they seem to) why then are companies allowed to sell snake oil?  Why doesn’t every advertisement for Nutri-Jenny-Fast have a big black box across it stating “Eating our fake food is not sustainable & your behavior will not be changed by our program.  You may in fact lose weight while you are our customer, but most people gain it back immediately after leaving our program.”   Too big brother?  Remember, we now have warnings on aerosol bottles to dissuade people from huffing.

If you feel that the public health of our nation is at risk, then we really have to talk.  Whether we should start with the corn subsidies or food labeling, or school lunches makes for good dinner party conversation.  But so do dinner parties for that matter.  All of our habits, from the decline of dinner tables to carbo-loaded toddlers while they burn zero calories riding in a stroller, to wheels on sneakers (children don’t even walk anymore, they roll,) it’s all up for scrutiny.  What about processed foods designed specifically for children?  The baby food industry started the trend with “toddler” jarred foods.  Apparently toddlers find real yogurt and bananas to be daunting.  As they get older, the food industry has graciously provided, fake cheese, yogurt with candy, processed breaded chicken nuggets, lunchables and colored flavored drinks.  For those in the public health camp; why is this even tolerated?  We regulate pill bottle caps, cribs, car seats, window blind cords, but not the food sold for our children?  We are cultivating a lifelong appetite for fake food.

It is a terrible burden to feel as if your size is standing in your way.  Feeling as if your own body is the enemy is an exhausting way to go through life.  For anyone pulling on their new sneakers and heading out into the unknown this January, I say Brava!  It is physics; the first steps are the hardest.  Keep at it, and in about six weeks it will be the new normal.  Eat real food, celebrate meals, enjoy life and save your money.  There are no shortcuts and the only magic is discovering your own strength.

 

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2012 in Cultural Critique, Media/Marketing

 

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Wait! But If You Act Now

There’s been some buzz recently about the “advent” of embedding advertising in entertainment.  Evidently, research indicates that people don’t like to watch commercials.  Crack research team, eh?  So embedding product placement seems to be the new radical solution to DVR/Tivo fast forwarding.  How in the world is this a new idea?

I still remembered my fevered distraction in watching the film Million Dollar Baby (2004.)  And no, not because of the hammering over the head obviousness of the failed attempt of melding two short stories, but by that damn soda machine.  I think it had its own stylist, or at least trailer.

While I can understand how placating it is to the client, product placement is just so counterproductive.  Not only am I not interested in purchasing the car being given its own role in a primetime television show, I can no longer take the product, the show, the characters or even the poor exploited actors, seriously. Really?  An equity member actress having to extol the virtues of the parallel parking features “in character.”  That just seems punitive to me.  Perhaps a newer generation will be lulled into the embedded advertising, but I was raised on overt label covering in television and film.  How many “cola” cans, “Heerios” boxes, “McBurger” cartons have we all seen?  Before that trend of course, there was the overt sponsored program.  “We are the men from Texaco…”  But alas, that was a simpler time.

I can’t help but feel that embedding is the first quiver of a death throe.  Towards the end of its 72 year run, the (excellent) daytime drama Guiding Light created a convenience store set stocked with Procter & Gamble products.  When the industrial sized Folders can appeared on the restaurant counter, they knew, I knew, Springfield was doomed.  It made me question the solidity of Procter and Gamble as well.

Please don’t misunderstand me, I am susceptible to advertising.  No sooner did we have a television room in our family than I was clamoring for that toothpaste with the stripes and fabric softener sheets (I was a strange child.)  My mother, otherwise impervious to pop culture, or fashion, actually dressed my sister and I in Pepsi-Cola jackets.  These were red, white & blue baseball-style cotton jackets festooned with the soda logo.  As the younger of the sisters, I wore that jacket for 4 years.  And I was thrilled, dear reader, I was thrilled.  I admit, at the tender age of 10, I fell hopelessly in love with the Pillsbury Dough Boy; the impish giggle, the soft pliable belly, the association of impending baked good.  I’ve also witnessed my brother’s longing for Snuggle.  I can still hear his plaintive cry: “But is Snuggle a boy or a girl?!”  Once grown to a consenting consumer age, I devoured teen magazines to discover what I should covet.  What twisted little advertising genius discovered teenage girls’ desire to smell strange?  Love Baby’s Soft, Lemon-Up shampoo, fruit flavored lip gloss.  Damn it, I wanted it all.  But sometime around the social studies advertising curriculum (8th grade?) it was difficult to not feel a bit cynical.  I had never stepped foot in a Wendy’s before, and a quest to find the beef, wasn’t gonna change that.

My suspicion is that advertising is most influential on me (and perhaps you) when it takes on an educational role.  Tell me about this new product, and why I need it.  I may give it a try (hello Swiffer! nice save Procter & Gamble.)  But so much of what’s being advertised is not new.  And being new, no matter how confusing and weird (i.e., the Tiffany key and now, lock) is no guarantee to sway me.  And when the advertising is annoying?  You just lost me as a potential customer.  So if I am the last person you want buying your product (and I may very well be) I encourage more humiliation of actors and actresses and definitely invest in some pop-up ads.  Oh, and while you’re at it, airbrushed a very over-exposed former television star, and I will so not buy your fortified water.

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2011 in Cultural Critique, Media/Marketing

 

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As Seen on T.V.

Today’s (primetime) television listing includes such small screen gems as; Fatal Honeymoons, Survivor: South Pacific (Bali Hai?), Dance Moms, Real Housewives (insert gated community), Sons of Guns: Oh my G-d a Canon, Confessions: Animal Hoarding, True Life: I Have Acne.  These are just a small sample of what is available to the discerning television viewing audience of our fair region.  But wait, do not rush to cancel cable, there is also a tiny Isis delivered glimmer of hope in today’s listing: Kate Plus 8: The Finale.

Cheekiness aside, I actually find this programming abomination somewhat comforting.  For one thing there is the utter truth in advertising that exists in these shows and ones like: The Dumbest Stuff.  No one is trying to pose as something they simply are not.  That is always deliciously refreshing.  Do I think Edward R Murrow would quit smoking if he knew that network news shows now cover; Celebrity Secrets: A Model Life, sure.  But I am also so bold as to suggest that Mr. Murrow would discover the joys of public broadcasting and the BBC.

Aside from the utter lack of pretense of inexpensively produced “reality” shows they provide a valuable litmus for our culture.  To my mind there is no difference between seizure inducing television, fast/junk food, and licensed designer products.  As a nation, we have a Big Gulp appetite for cheap crud.  Why is this (old news) encouraging?  Because if we can connect the dots, we can begin to make better choices about how to address social issues.

Consumer debt, like obesity, is spreading like the plague.  Some portion of our nation’s massive consumer debt is due to buying too much.  (Stunning economic analysis, I know.)  For decades, we have been on hyper-drive extolling the virtues of being Rich and Famous (oh what Robin Leach has wrought!)  We can not feign surprise that a celebrity obsessed culture now exists.  In the 1990s, we saw the ascent of television shows, songs, and magazines, whose general raison d’etre was to pitch (formerly obscure) brands as “must haves.”  Did anyone ever need to know what a Blahnik was, or be hypnotized into believing it had intrinsic value?  Not surprisingly, once the consumer appetite was created, the knock-offs could not be far behind.   I am actually a proponent of (legal) knock-offs (i.e., H&M,Topshop.)  Usually, not such a fan of disposable clothing, I find these shops help to quench a thirst for photo spread apparel.  There is a (more relevant) secondary function of these shops as well.  In theory, if faced with the mass-market ubiquity resulting from say, Missoni for Target, a consumer epiphany can not be far behind.  “Is the “famous” “designer” (insert item) actually better than another (insert item,)” the consumer then asks him/herself.  Make no mistake, there are huge disparities in craftsmanship, materials, styling in fashion, but there is no relationship between those factors and the size of the team of publicists hired by a designer. Once that realization occurs, the uber-marketed brand is simply not as desirable.  So the proliferation of cheap knock-offs, could in fact work to curb excessive consumer debt.  I suggest Public Service Announcements (PSA) which show who the people really are that are buying these items.  This would not be that different than the substitution of the burly Malboro Man, with the guy attached to the oxygen tank.

While we’re on the subject, how about the same PSA marketing campaign for junk/fast food?  Not unlike the restrictions put on liquor and cigarette advertising, how about rules of engagement for food-like products?  There are the easy black-out restrictions (i.e., no advertising sugar laced or processed food to children: ever.)  But then there are the more creative (and flat out enjoyable) approaches.  How about anyone shown serving, being served, or ingesting sugar laces/processed food, looked like they actually eat it?  Or for every advertisement for sugar laced/processed food, equal space (and resources) must be given to visually accurate depictions of people; on dialysis, oxygen dependent, or mobility impaired.  Severe?  Absolutely, but this is war.  We’ve spent decades convincing the public that cheap crud is appealing.  It’s time use the same approach and ingenuity for the good of society.

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2011 in Cultural Critique, Media/Marketing

 

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