I had my (what's supposed to be) annual mammogram today. I'm really glad that it's only annual, because I will tell you honestly that it's a painful experience. Everyone always talks about how great and important it is to get a mammogram on a regular basis. No one ever tells you how much it hurts. Now, there are a lot of things that hurt and are nevertheless necessary and worthwhile, and I would venture to say that a mammogram is one of them. But still.
Unless there's something very interesting going on in the news, I almost never watch television at home. This morning, however, I was in the Breast Center waiting room with a bunch of other women, all wearing the same bathrobe, and the television tuned to ABC's The View, which is a sort of female-hosted, female-oriented talk show dressed up in a news costume. I'm not going to talk about Rielle Hunter, the guest on today's show, because I have enough to say about her that I think I might want to save it for another post. Instead, I am going to talk about a commercial that came on in the middle of the show.
This is a show by and for women, and it's on in the middle of a weekday morning, so I am guessing that the target advertising audience is some combination of stay-at-home mothers and retirees. (The undressed-to-the-waist crowd at the hospital is just incidental.) Accordingly, most of the ads were for soaps, diapers, snack foods and drinks, and cleaning solutions, and they featured cute but grubby children and pets.
The particular ad that caught my eye was for Betty Crocker's Fruit Snacks. In it, a young child accompanied his mom to the supermarket, and as young children tend to do, he announced in the middle of the shopping trip that he was hungry. Mom quickly wheeled him to the fruit snack aisle, where she was able to get him a package of these fabulous little brightly-colored gummy treats. The announcer praised her for her choice in a rich, avuncular baritone, noting that Fruit Snacks contain fewer than 100 calories per serving, are low in fat and gluten-free, and are made with real fruit.
Just like, well, real fruit.
This woman was in a supermarket with a small child. She could have theoretically bought him anything in the store to assuage his hunger. Why did she run for the packaged Fruit Snacks instead of, say, the produce aisle? Because, after all, an apple, peach or pear is also under 100 calories, is entirely fat- and gluten-free, and (here's the kicker) is made entirely with real fruit. No carrageenan or partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil (unlike the Fruit Snacks). Also, a piece of real fruit probably costs about half of what a package of Fruit Snacks costs.
Don't get me wrong. I am not a health-food freak by any stretch of the imagination. My kids eat sugary cereals from time to time, and they usually prefer macaroni and cheese from a box over my homemade version. Fresh fruit sometimes goes begging in my house. Just yesterday, while I was out, my daughters went to the store and bought bottled spaghetti sauce and canned chicken soup, even though the refrigerator at home was stuffed with my homemade (and healthier) versions.
I'm just interested in whether this commercial works. Does it make people think that Carageenan Fruit-Flavored Oil Gels are a good snack choice for a toddler when anything else is available? This kid was not trapped in a car seat on a cross-country drive with limited stops, and his mom was not rummaging through her bare cabinets in a snowstorm, looking for something - anything - to feed her hungry child. There was no mention of food allergies, and the kid didn't even appear to be throwing a temper tantrum or demanding the Fruit Snacks in lieu of other options. He was just happy with what he was given, and his mom was smug in the knowledge that she had made the right choice.
Every once in a while, the food marketing machine presses my buttons, and I guess it happened this morning as I was sitting there with all these other women, undergoing a very important basic health screening test. I guess that intelligent women, watching this ad, are perfectly capable of making their own nutrition decisions for themselves and their families. I just wish, sometimes, that the marketing machine would treat us more like the intelligent women that we are than like the hungry children we are trying to feed.