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The two best ads of Super Bowl 2015 were strangely related. Both were about health and tech, in a way — two of our favorite topics these days. The ads appeared just minutes apart in the Super Bowl broadcast, and they played off each other in some weird ways.
Coke’s ‘Make it Happy’ ad
One ad sent the message that people on the Internet should chill out and cheer up. Coke’s ad quickly portrays all the worst things about the Internet — bullying, trolling, fighting, etc. — and then shows a technician in a huge server room spill his bottle of Coke on a machine, somehow spreading the soda’s goodness all through Internet. Then all the of bullying and fighting stops. People laugh and embrace. Bullies grow nice. The Internet grows kind. The power of refined sugar water!
Weight Watchers’ ‘All You Can Eat’ ad
Then right after the Coke ad came another spot that was a sharp, funny commentary on the fast food industry — including Coke. The Weight Watchers ad features a voiceover from a drug pusher laying down the soft sell of his product line, saying things like “It’s just social; you can quit whenever you want.”
But on the screen we see a million different kinds of processed food, and all the ads and TV shows that bombard us every day glorifying the systematic over-intake of those foods.
My favorite part is where the ad roasts those renegade food shows where some slightly overweight guy with dyed blond hear travels the countryside looking for the best of the worst food. The Weight Watchers ad shows the mock host of one of those shows — “Roadside Ramblin'” — getting all psyched up to eat what looks like a quadruple-decker waffle cheeseburger with egg in the middle and syrup on top. The message is clear: The Cokes and McDonald’s and Con Agras of the world have us all hooked and they want to keep it that way.
Ad vs. ad
Both these ads deliver a message, although I’m not sure either one is very genuine.
While the generalized negative tone of our discourse on the Internet is a genuine problem, Coke certainly isn’t helping. If anything, some of that hostility is coming from people with low blood sugar, coming down from the massive rush of sugar from the can of Coke sitting empty beside the computer.
And that’s to say nothing of the huge problem that refined sugar is presenting in our health care system. Some say that dealing with sugar-related diseases like diabetes and obesity is the single biggest line item in our massive health care spend. And it’s the taxpayers who are asked to pay for much of it via the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Maybe that’s why some people get hostile online.
As for Weight Watchers, I give them high marks for their commercial, and I hope it gets people thinking about the food they’re putting into their bodies every day. One of the images shown in the ad is a pile of sugar, reminiscent of those demonstrations of how much sugar is contained in one can of Coke.
But don’t forget that Weight Watchers is a for-profit business, and its financial future depends on people continuing to eat the wrong foods too much of the time and then signing up for Weight Watchers again. If fast food is like a drug habit, as the ad says, then Weight Watchers is the methadone clinic down the block that collects $10 a dose when its time for the addict to kick.
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