Food Brands’ Ads Remind Us Why The American Diet Is So Poor

Food Brands’ Ads Remind Us Why The American Diet Is So Poor

While Jamie Oliver tried to save America from bad food, advertisers like Ragu and Hellmans tried to argue their processed food was healthy.

Piers Fawkes, PSFK
  • 29 march 2010

In the middle of a 2 hour TV special where chef Jamie Oliver tried to convince children, their parents and their teachers to stop eating processed food and eat simpler, fresher and better, the makers of Ragu reminded us in the ad breaks why the American diet has got so poor.

While Jamie stood before a class of students who didn’t know how what the basic vegetables he was holding were (see video below), Unilever, who manufacture Ragu, demonstrated why everyone in the class was so ignorant; in the Ragu ad, a child sits at a kitchen an table and feeds his broccoli to his dog until his mom serves him what he wants: a Ragu drenched pasta that offers to give the kid all the nutrition the kid needs.

Beyond suggesting that serving processed food to a kid is better than fresh vegetables, the advertiser forgot to explain that the only vitamin that Ragu will give this cheeky chap is vitamin A. His broccoli fed dog on the other hand will enjoy the benefit of vitamins C, K, A, B6, B2, B5, B1, B3 and E. The boy also has to deal with the 1,512.5 mg of sodium in the average serving. The National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences recommends an approximate daily range of 1,100 to 3,300 mg of sodium for an adult.

Food Brand's Ads Remind Us Why The American Diet Is So Poor

On ABC, the same network that ran Jamie’s show, Hellman’s is advertising its Real Mayonaise (also made by Unilever). While Jamie’s program showed the parents of an obese 12 year old boy who may die in his 30s because of diabetes, Hellman’s ran an ad with a cooking show where food blogger Elizabeth Peterson was shown how to make a heavily Mayonnaised meal.

Hellman’s seems to have picked up that by suggesting that their food might be natural, it can get considered as healthy. In fact Hellman’s Real offers zero nutritional value. There is no benefit in eating the product: no vitamins, no iron, no zinc, no anything. It’s also interesting to note that Hellman’s Real contains such ingredients as Calcium Disodium EDTA (Oregon State’s Food Resource website says that it “may cause intestinal upsets, muscle cramps, kidney damage, and blood in urine”).

Thankfully, Jamie offered us a way forward. He took the 12 year old under his wing and showed him how to lose weight by embracing food. The chef gave him a lesson on how to cook a chicken stir fry with fresh ingredients. The boy felt that there was a glimmer of hope, and thankfully there was not a brand in site.

It’s not that we have a major problem with Unilever making products they want to – it’s just the way the soap-maker promotes them as healthy foods. It leaves us wondering which ad agencies are making these ads for them? Surely they should understand the conversation that is taking place around these food and health, and be advising the clients against putting out such work. But then again, Unilever seems to have large enough budgets to overcome ethics in the creative community.

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution

Jamie Oliver’s “Facts and figures about how obesity and diet is affecting America’s health, food facts and information about the federal school lunch program” (pdf)


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