Super Bowl Ad Brawl: There’s a Much Bigger Issue

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superbowladbrawlOver a quarter of a billion dollars was spent Sunday night on Super Bowl XLVII advertising. With the big game day ranking as the second-largest annual food celebration behind Thanksgiving, it’s no surprise that over 40% of the ads were for food or beverages. And another shocker? Almost all of these ads peddle highly processed, unhealthy products that make our already bulging waistlines even bigger.

There’s no doubt that corporate giants dominate TV’s food advertising. But one of the more subtle yet influential ways these companies manipulate our conversations about food is found hidden in the drama over an ad that didn’t air during the Super Bowl.

In the big beverage showdown between Coke and Pepsi, a relatively new upstart got caught in the crossfire. SodaStream, a company that sells a home soda maker, had its Super Bowl ad rejected by CBS. Marketing its appliance as an eco-friendly alternative to all the waste generated by big manufacturers, SodaStream was forced to replace its original ad that showcased Pepsi and Coke deliverymen unloading stacks of plastic bottles at a supermarket. Here’s the original ad:

[If the video isn't appearing above you can view the ad here.]

Now while the rejection of this ad is an interesting piece of news that has the Internet buzzing, there’s an even bigger story that’s been ignored. You see the same influence that forced SodaStream’s to change its ad also impacts the television programming we watch every single day.

Think about it—big food and beverage companies spend billions of dollars on advertising every year. Not only do they have enormous clout, but they’re not afraid to use it by pulling spending from any shows that are overly critical or trash their line-up of highly processed products.

So how does this affect the general public’s opinions about food?

  • First, most television programming implicitly advocates processed foods and sugary drinks. Boxes, bags, and bottles fill sitcom pantries and adorn their kitchen tables.
  • Second, rarely do these shows bring to life the serious health consequences of eating empty calories. While over a third of the U.S. population is obese, how often do you see overweight characters on TV? And excluding the occasional medical drama, when’s the last time you saw someone suffering from diabetes?
  • Finally, if a character on a sitcom or drama happens to be concerned about what they eat or—perish the thought—is a vegetarian, they’re often marginalized or branded as some kind of hippie.

Combined these subtle forms of influence have an impact on how we think and feel about food. And if the real food movement hopes to grow, here’s yet another roadblock we must overcome.

So help me chip away at Big Food’s power by sharing my blog with your friends and family. Helping people learn more about what’s in their food is my passion. It’s why I write this blog.

This week I’m also running a giveaway for signed copies of my novel, Fat Profits. If you enjoy thrillers and your concerned about the food you eat, you should definitely enter the giveaway and check out the FREE first chapter. Although Fat Profits is complete fiction, it brings to life the greed and corruption that is far too common in the world of Big Food. I’m hopeful that it can be a powerful tool in getting more people asking the question, “Is the food I eat safe?”

As always, thanks for reading my blog. If you’re new to my site and you’d like to learn more inside scoop on the world of food, please subscribe here.

[Subscribers who receive this post via email or RSS will need to visit my blog to participate in the giveaway.]


6 comments… add one

  • Ludicrous Mama February 7, 2013, 4:27 am

    The widget isn’t working. It’s not counting my entries when I do them.

    Reply
  • Reinhard Freise February 7, 2013, 5:18 am

    Great Blog! Great & funny SodaStream ad! Readers in Australia aren’t eligible for the sweepstake, so I skipped that.

    Reply
  • Vanessa B February 7, 2013, 11:08 am

    I know I’m ignoring the bigger picture here, but how much healthier is Soda Stream? Sure it saves bottles, that’s a plus. But it still can’t be any better for you. People just need to stop drinking this stuff!

    Reply
    • Joanne February 7, 2013, 1:30 pm

      For me it’s all about the carbonation. I never add anything to it. Just seltzer. Same 3 bottles over and over again.

      Reply
  • Southern Beale February 12, 2013, 12:27 pm

    To me there is no greater sign that capitalism has failed than in the food industry, where they create the most ridiculous products for absolutely no reason except their profit. For example:

    http://www.first-draft.com/2013/02/capitalism-has-failed.html

    Reply
  • Steve September 18, 2013, 3:23 pm

    I feel the frustration on many people’s part over how lousy processed food is/has become. As I lie here in my hospital bed recovering from acute kidney failure, brought on primarily by my own poor diet choices, I realize that there is no royal road to good health- it’s going to take discipline and work on my part.

    I also realize that, picketing outside the gates of Coca-Cola, Monsanto, or Cargill would bring about some satisfaction, the real change will only come when we simply stop purchasing this garbage and looking elsewhere; like maybe cooking our own batches of chili, for example instead of whining about how seemingly every major brand of canned chili contains some form of sugar. (Why should chili contain HFCS in the first place?)

    The real change will only happen when we stop buying it. That is a message that will resonate with the big manufacturers more readily than any shouting and complaining. Just turn over that box of instant oatmeal that you like and read the ingredients. They have to be listed in order of proportion, so if sugar or other sweeteners rank ahead ANY of the meaningful ingredients (like the fruit & nuts) or you see multiple instances of sugar, you can assume you’re better off making it yourself. It’s all common sense.

    Reply

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Commenting Policy: Following the advice of a popular blogger, I’m running my blog conversation like it’s my living room. Just so you know, I won’t tolerate bad behavior in my living room, and I won’t tolerate it on here. Critical is fine and differing opinions are encouraged. But if you’re rude … bye bye. And when commenting, please use your PERSONAL name or initials and NOT your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. The bottom line is, be cool, keep it clean, and have fun! Thanks in advance for adding to the conversation!

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About Me:

Bruce Bradley

Bruce Bradley

I'm a father, food advocate, consultant, and author.

Bruce is a former processed food exec turned food advocate, blogger, and author.

Before his food advocacy work, Bruce worked for over fifteen years as a marketer at companies like General Mills, Pillsbury, and Nabisco. As one of the only former processed food marketers actively speaking out about concerns over the food we eat, the media often seeks Bruce out for his honest perspective. His 2011 interview, Confessions of a former Big Food Executive, was one of Grist online's Top 10 clicked stories for 2011.

Bruce now writes, performs speaking engagements, and provides business strategy and marketing consultant services to help ethical, sustainable businesses reach their potential.

Bruce graduated with an MBA from Duke University and a B.A. from Davidson College. Born and raised in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, he now lives in Minneapolis, MN with his son and their dog, Katie.

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