Sunday, January 26, 2020

tell me sweet little lies

Having spent most of my career in some aspect of the advertising business, I love and appreciate good and clever advertising, so I pay close attention to commercials during the inordinate amount of television that I watch.

"It's Dad.... and there's no Santa Claus."
About two years ago, Pepperidge Farm rolled out a new ad campaign to promote their line of Milano® cookies. The 30-second spot focuses on a woman alone in the bathroom. She is wrapped in a towel, lounging on the floor in front of a bathtub filled with children's toys. She is savoring each luxurious bite of a Milano® cookie with her eyes closed. Suddenly, she sees the locked doorknob begin to jiggle and a child's voice, from the other side of the door, questions: "Mom?" The woman bolts upright, furrows her brow, clears the cookie crumbs from her throat with a muffled cough and, with a put-on lower register in her voice, she replies: "It's Dad." Satisfied when she hears the pitter-patter of small feet retreating from the other side of the door, she resumes munching her cookies in serene privacy, while a voice-over states: "You gave them your bathtub. Don't give them your cookies. Pepperidge Farm Milano®. Save something for yourself." 

I hate this commercial.

No relation.
Wait. Wait. Wait! The commercial execution is fine, the actress is effective in the role and they certainly convey their message. What I hate is the message. Pepperidge Farm has always positioned their cookie category as being sophisticated and geared their advertising towards adults. I understand this and "positioning" is a key part of effective advertising. By not purposely going after market heavyweights like Nabisco and Keebler, Pepperidge Farm has essentially taken themselves out of the major brand cookie competition by creating the "Distinctive" line of cookies, thus creating a niche category the other brands don't have.

What they have also done is advocated lying. Specifically, lying to your children. Let's imagine, for a second, what happens after the tagline is read by the voice over and the commercial ends. The kid on the other side of the door wanders off looking for Mom — while Mom polishes off the remaining Milanos® in the bag. The kid strolls in to the living room and discovers Dad reading the paper. She is confused. "Dad?," she begins, "I thought you were in the bathroom." Dad looks up from the paper, himself confused. "What are you talking about?," he says, "Why would you think that?" The child explains that when she tried the locked bathroom door and questioned the occupant, a deep voice replied "It's Dad" and I'm sure I heard someone eating. I figured it was you, since you're the only one in this house disgusting enough to eat in the bathroom. Mom would never do that. And Mom would never lie or hide food from me." Dad frowns. He tosses the paper to the floor and stomps off to the bathroom to get to the bottom of this. He pounds on the door, demanding his wife let him in and explain this situation. The wife opens the door and, brushing cookie crumbs away from the corners of her mouth, exclaims that it is none of his goddamn business what she's doing in the bathroom. Then she goes on to explain that if she wants to eat a goddamn cookie in this God-forsaken house, she has to sneak them away from that fucking locust they have for a kid. The fight escalates. The kid cries. Soon the couple considers trust issues in their relationship and are now headed towards divorce. All because Pepperidge Farm forced Mom to tell a lie.

Is Pepperidge Farm happy with creating such familial turmoil is the name of selling a few more cookies? I am calling out Pepperidge Farm for the irresponsible message in their advertising. But, as far as the advertising world is concerned — mission accomplished! I remembered the name of the product.

Maybe I even gave them a new company tagline....

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