Academic Writing

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Jell-O's ChocoBeast

True Temptation or Advertising Faux Pas?

I don’t know if you’ve seen the new commercial for Jell-O Temptations, but I cringe every time it comes on TV and I definitely have  what to say about it.  Here’s the spot for your reference:

In the commercial, a mother is sitting in a tent with her kids telling her kids a ghost story about the “ChocoBeast,” a half-man, half-monster “who will stop at nothing to sink his fangs into people who steal other people’s chocolate temptation.”   Then the “monster” appears screaming outside the tent and the kids are sent into a panic and throw the Chocolate Temptations back towards their mom.   In the next scene the parents are sitting on the porch together, dad is eating a Chocolate Temptations Jell-O and the mom says, “Good job, ChocoBeast.” 

Advertising has a long and storied history of not only reflecting our culture but also shaping it.  The idea of cognitive discontent and advertising has taught us as consumers that there are things we’re lacking or things we should be self conscious of and the only way to remedy those short comings is to consume the products needed.  For instance, not until whitening toothpastes came on the market did we know our teeth weren’t white enough.  But now that there’s a product for it, we are sure to feel bad about ourselves until we fix it!

This commercial poses a different issue, the message it’s sending is very different from others in this genre.  First of all, think back to the Jell-O marketing of about a decade or 2 ago when the friendly, child-loving Bill Cosby was the face and voice of the brand.  This once kid-friendly product used to cater towards children’s needs (or, let’s be honest, interest in sugary, wiggly snacks) and now they’re shifting their strategy to focus on the parents and their interest in indulgence.  Furthermore, and probably the more problematic one, is that this shift also reflects (or perhaps is helping to shape) and change in parenting models.  These parents are not only putting their needs before the kids’ needs, but are actually frightening them to do so.  What parent would choose to legitimately scare their child to get what they want?  

At the risk of sounding like I’m finger-wagging (ok, maybe I am) but in an age where child on child bullying is such a hot topic in the public forum, how can this message be tolerated?  Parents are supposed to be the protectors of their children, not the perpetrators of their pain.  The parents in this ad are clearly emotionally abusing their kids, and for what? A 4 oz tub of what is probably a pretty crappy snack?  



Gabriela said...

I like your take on the ad. It is interesting that you mention the shift in the target demographic. It seems to me that they may have shifted the age that they target, but they are focused on the same cohort. If 2o years ago they were targeting Jell-o ads at children, they are continuing to reach out to that same generation, but now as young parents. And, as you made the connection with peer bullying, they are reaching out to parents who are behaving like children or teenagers. They may have been at that age when they begun their love of jell-o (maybe the ad tugging on these nostalgic heart strings?:)
In any case, I'm not sure that this can be deemed child abuse, but I do think it is pretty bad. Hopefully we live in a society where parents are more mature than their 11 year old children and if they aren't, then at least they would only act that way over a worthwhile dessert, which as you said, is probably not this product!

Benjamin said...

Interesting. I def agree with Gabriela that, as in video games now, this company is reaching out to the same people it always has, they have all just grown older. Video games when I was a kid were sports or some fighting, maybe some shooting. Now, we 10 yr olds are 30 yr olds who know war, drugs, sex, etc. and that is what they sell. Not to mention the fact that kids are doing way more way younger than we ever did.
This commercial is disturbing for sure. But let's be honest its a 30 second spot that no one will remember in 6 months and I doubt will drive Jello sales (if Ko-jel had it, that would be diff). Having said that, I love the point about parents being selfish and worrying about themselves before their children which I absolutely agree with in this ME generation.
Another great JL article