I don’t remember where I was when I saw the first of these spots, but it smacked me upside the head like a pouch of pasteurized cheese food product.
In the sausage-making process wherein retailers devise merchandising schemes and then pressure manufacturers to fund them, WalMart seems to have inadvertently sewn together a nutritional monster of an advertisement (two, actually).
The tagline on the spots: “Get a Smarter Start to School” couldn’t be more off the mark.
These ads take us back to a time when nutrition is an afterthought at best, and where the convenience of instant food is paramount.
Sorry, but quick + non-nutritious ≠ smart.
A typical impossibly lovely and fit TV family is gathering before dinner and Mom asks what they want. Of course the young kids, being kids, throw the long ball by asking for their favorite processed foods: Hot Pockets and Chef Boyardee. The husband, being, well, a guy, goes to his mental bacon file and all he can come up with is…Bacon Mac and Cheese.
Mom, the savvy and conscientious gatekeeper, decides she can easily avoid hassle and effort by immediately capitulating; three package openings, three microwave beeps and a token salad later, dinner is served. Mom is hero.
No problem, right? Well, let’s assess the nutritional damage (Daily limits according to Netrition.com).
(We’ve assumed the young lady would eat one Hot Pocket, the young man would eat one can of Mini Ravioli and Dad would eat until interrupted by dessert).
In terms of calories, these are not horrible (but also don’t include other things served with dinner). In the case of protein, they perform well (particularly Dad’s, because bacon). On the other hand they provide a fairly heavy dose of saturated fat, carbs and sodium. And not much fiber. So nutritionally, this isn’t particularly ‘smart’, and in restaurant terms, steers more toward Bloomin’ Onion than Chez Panisse. It is definitely not a model for a balanced, nutritious meal.
More insidious is the positioning of convenience above everything, where instant food, regardless of its merits, is the solution to ‘what’s for dinner’. The entire family seems to have completely slept through years of nutritional messaging, PSAs and school programs, and I’m guessing Michelle Obama would not endorse this spot.
The audience gets a great reinforcement of instant food as good habit, and a great opportunity to model simple, nutritious eating is missed. Not good.
There is a breakfast companion ad in this campaign, where the featured items are Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes and Jimmy Dean’s Pancakes and Sausage (on a stick). No additional comments necessary, except if the same family is bookending its day with WalMart’s meal suggestions, that puts a LOT of pressure on lunch.
On the other hand, it’s probably not easy to match program participants to be nutritionally balanced. And at the end of the day, business is business.
Check out this Kraft Mac & Cheese ad from the 1950s, and hang in there for the hot dog meal suggestion.
We have some significant weight/health issues in this country, and I wish we could do better.