Advertising, entertainment, and what’s for dinner tonight

Posted by Rob Walker on August 3, 2009
Posted Under: Advertising,America,Consumer Behavior,Entertainment,Sustenance

If you missed it, I really recommend Michael Pollan’s cover story from the Times Mag this weekend, on food preparation as something we watch on television, rather than something we do. It’s really well done. Here’s one side note that’s particularly relevant to this site:

It’s no accident that Julia Child appeared on public television — or educational television, as it used to be called. On a commercial network, a program that actually inspired viewers to get off the couch and spend an hour cooking a meal would be a commercial disaster, for it would mean they were turning off the television to do something else. The ads on the Food Network, at least in prime time, strongly suggest its viewers do no such thing: the food-related ads hardly ever hawk kitchen appliances or ingredients (unless you count A.1. steak sauce) but rather push the usual supermarket cart of edible foodlike substances, including Manwich sloppy joe in a can, Special K protein shakes and Ore-Ida frozen French fries, along with fast-casual eateries like Olive Garden and Red Lobster.

Yes. And of course those advertisers know exactly what they are doing: Associating their processed or prepared-for-you foodstuffs and meals with the vague idea of hands-on cooking. Maybe watching someone expertly prepare a meal from scratch is something that makes you feel good, and if a can of Manwhich can associate itself with that good feeling, nonconsciously of course, perhaps that association will still lurk in your brain somewhere as you wheel through Kroger.

The whole piece is actually full of great stuff about consumer behavior, advertising, and entertainment, filtered through the lens of food. Great stuff.

Further diversion may be found at MKTG Tumblr, and the Consumed Facebook page.

Reader Comments

He was on Fresh Air last night too. Good stuff.

Written By chip on August 4th, 2009 @ 1:16 pm

Man. I couldn’t even get on Fresh Air to talk about my book. He gets for an article! I feel pathetic.

Written By Rob Walker on August 4th, 2009 @ 1:25 pm

His latest book “In Defence of Food” is also a ripper.

Written By Jason Graham-Nye on August 4th, 2009 @ 3:44 pm
Next Post:
Previous Post: