Thursday, 6 May 2010

Cereal Killer

This is not just a bowl of cereal...Image by Sam Cockman via Flickr
The post I put up on Tuesday was at least partially influenced by a chat I was having with Dubai-based personal trainer Kai Mitchell in a few off-air moments during a Dubai Today radio show I co-hosted a few weeks ago.

It was Kai’s discomfort with the practice of selling people content-free breakfast cereal based diets that turned me on to the whole issue in the first place – and it was Nestlé’s atrocious ‘pull pull’ radio advertisement that pushed me over the edge into Tuesday's wee slice of grumpy bloggery suggesting you might like to eat paper instead of breakfast
cereal products as part of your new dietary regime.

You can only imagine my delight when the blog post attracted a couple of anonymous comments. I'm not a big fan of  these as they're often used to express negative sentiment without the grace of culpability.
Anonycomments can also come from people working for companies who are trying to influence debate without being open about who they are. This is infrequent precisely because it is widely considered as dishonest, egregious and stupid behaviour. And, as eny fule no, you can be traced even if you’re ‘anonymous’. I have written about this in the past, offering guidance to companies engaging with blogs.
Anonymous comment one came at just after 11am. I haven’t (obviously) edited it:

before you go ahead and diss ads make sure you know which is which :)
the tasteless "pull pull oh my god my fat thighs into a dress is worse than labor" is a Nestle Fitness ad,the 2 weeks challenge is a Special K line that has nothing to do with Nestle..
and ps. two totally different cereals, and at least they are promoting a relatively healthy weight loss program,as opposed to the other crazy fad diets out there

In this case, the comment was saying I had mistaken one ad for another, which I did not do. I also didn’t mention Special K or, indeed Nestlé. I purposefully referenced ‘the breakfast cereal people’ and not those nice, searchable brands Nestlé and Special K, let alone the Special K two-week challenge. Special K is a Kellogg's brand.  You know Kellogs? The breakfast cereal people represented by advertising agency Leo Burnett in the Middle East?

The second comment came 14 minutes later. Having obviously reconsidered the original response, ‘anonymous’ added (again I haven’t corrected the text) this:

You know i agree that that particular radio ad was HORRIFIC. And i would probably NEVER buy that brand. But not all low-fat cereal brands preach "get skinny by eating our brand."

Some brands, specifically the ones that offer the 2-week diet, target people who have unhealthy eating habits. The are not talking to the kind of people who are already health conscience and eat organic-type food. And in order to break any habit you need to have a disciplined amount of time doing the opposite. Why do you think there are a minimum of 21 days for rehab? Becuase research shows that it takes 21 days to break an addictive habit such as alcoholism. Similarly, 2 weeks is enough to get you off of junk food/fast food AND offers you an incentive (a little weight loss) to START leading a healthier lifestyle. And im sorry but at least THIS diet is healthier than starving yourself!
Plus,cereal is MUCH better food then the greasy crap people are used to eating now a days. It probably has more vitamins than they know existed!
So the ad you mentioned really does degrade other cereal brands that are honestly trying to help women become healthier.
Lastly, please don't take my comments personally. Everyone is entitled to their opinions but i believe that informed opinions are worth listening to more.

Of course, both comments – posted as ‘anonymous’ come from the same source: a place SiteMeter identifies only as (Leo Burnett Middle East).

Now don’t get me wrong. The commenter may well not work for Leo Burnett. The IPs could have been mixed up or the commenter might have been a random, albeit arrogant and illiterate, visitor to Leo’s offices ‘camping’ on their wireless. I mean, we don’t want to jump to conclusions now just because some dribbling idiot has wagged their fingers at us in a mildly offensive and patronising manner, do we? So let’s stick to the facts.

As a direct result of these two comments, it is now likely that any number of search strings with permutations consisting of either of these two brands and questions regarding diet will bring this post (and therefore the original one linked again for your convenience here) relatively high into Google search results. That has the potential to drive thousands of people to read my little nag about the attempt to foster the uptake of breakfast cereal diets of questionable nutritional benefit who otherwise would never have bothered.

What do YOU think? I’d be particularly interested in your views if you are employed by the Kellogg Company, the world's leading producer of cereal and Kellogg's convenience foods, including Kellogg cookies, Kellogg crackers, Kellogg toaster pastries, Kellogg cereal bars, Kellogg fruit-flavored snacks, Kellogg frozen waffles and Kellogg veggie foods. You might have concerns regarding the whole Kelloggs two-week challenge promotion, or have worries about sugar levels in Kelloggs’ foods, the use of high fructose corn syrup as a cheap sweetener in breakfast cereals  or even iron content (for instance the Danish government’s 2004 ban on Kelloggs products because of the high added vitamin content and, apparently, non-dietary iron added to its products).

If you do, you might like to add a comment. I’d really prefer it if you could do so only if you are prepared to put a name to it. If you work for an organisation with a vested interest, perhaps you’d like to declare that – or just wait until you get home so that your IP doesn’t track straight back to your company’s network and expose your idiotic attempts at corporate mendacity by proxy.
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EyeOnDubai said...

Delicious! I especially love the subtle touch of ascerbic acid!

One to watch.


Stained said...


ReMo said...

hahahah.. guy/gal must be pretty pissed at u.. watch out speedin cereal bars!!!

HE said...

Yes, that is one very well informed "camper" sitting at the Leo Burnett offices using their wireless. Very well informed! - he/she is also very sensitive, quick to jump to the defence of whichever organization he might be "camping" out in - it's the least they can do, you know, with free internet and all.

Phillipa said...

I like porridge

Susan said...

on the camper idea - maybe it was someone sitting waiting for an interview who thought he would suck up!

I mean, Leo Burnett wouldn't actually employ someone that stupid..... would they????

sarsour said...

I love it!!

AmazingSusan said...

Run, Leo Burnett, run!

AmazingSusan said...


Andrew said...

Nice. But did you purposefully mistype Kelloggs as Kellog / Kellogs in the paragraph before last?

Fangpyre said...

I find it sick that companies feed on people's insecurities. Healthy eating is a serious thing, and no region has an obesity issue more than this one.

However, most of these foods (not just cereals) leech off people's insecurities (mainly women) to stay thin regardless of their health.

These 2 ads of Special K counter that, sending the message that they are healthy, and you should eat healthy, without fueling any eating disorders.
(sorry about the sound)

Of course, these companies/industries are not the only ones out there doing this.
Whitening creams deliver the message that they make success.
Makeup say we get you the man.
Deodorants say we get the women.

There is room for a profitable business (and ads) that doesn't ruin people's lives.
Of course that would take creativity and won't be as profitable, so why do it? Right?

PS: I chose those 2 ads to prove that its not the company I hate, but the attitude.

alexander... said...

Andrew: Although we tend to refer to it as Kellogs, it is properly The Kellog Company. So it's better to include both names, I feel... :)

Andrew said...

@alexander /

Not that I'm pushing my point :)

alexander... said...

Oh, cripes, just realised Andrew. Thought you were talking Kellogg's vs Kellogg and then I went and left the last G out again in my comment!

It's odd, not sure why the Kellogg extra 'g' escaped me, a strange type of G dyslexia?

Anyway, you are perfectly correct, I am muckle-headed and didn't initially understand your point but now that I have, I have corrected each and every missing 'g'.

(What's the betting I missed one now? :)

alexander... said...

Rather deliciously, have just had someone Google:

kellogg breakfast cereal in Middle East

And this post is the number one result.

I am oddly satisfied by that...

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