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Home > Media

You're a loser, baby

24 July 2005

Advertisers seem to be taking the hint from Dove’s daring and only slightly dubious ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’ angle and starting to toe the fatty line. Women are openly sobbing in the streets with gratitude that their natural, unsculpted shapes are now Officially OK according to a bunch of loud-mouthed bleeders in suits. Still, much as it’s all driven by market forces and economic targets and oh-so-icky things of that ilk, it’s a step towards that mythic Truth in Advertising and the day we can all eat a pie without wanting to turn ourselves in. Nothing to get your Dworkins in a twist over.

However, the new Special K ad leaves a bit of a dry, cardboardy, tasteless taste in the mouth, by virtue of its massive daftness. It’s not unfamiliar territory – deliciously vague ‘scientific research’ suggests that you can lose weight by having Special K for breakfast, replacing ‘indulgent snacks’ with sickly-sweet Kellogg bars and er... well, no mention of lunch or dinner. It’s the kind of nutritional non-advice that queen of all quacks ‘Dr’ Gillian McKeith would blow incredulous chunks over (if the spindly crone has actually got any chunks to blow). Familiar too is the fresh-faced woman who falls somewhere within the parameters of ‘normal’ – the most amorphous of classifications, whose meaning with regard to the bigness of women has been dithering about like an amnesiac shopping trolley for years. She’s wearing an ill-fitting Butlins-esque red coat, suggesting that while we should applaud her fight against the flab, we don’t really need to see too clearly the casualties of the battle.

So Normal 12-14 Woman eats her breakfast beside her adoring little 6-year-old imp-child, who is drawing her picture. Then it starts to get distinctly disquieting. ‘Mummy,’ the creature grins, ‘you’re such a *loser*.’ Mummy smiles. Then she goes to get her nails done. ‘Dahling’, sneers the manicurist through her nose, ‘you’re such a loser.’ And so on until N12-14W passes a not-too-threatening manual worker type, who admiringly yet chastely leers ‘loo-hoo-zerrrr!’ as she strolls by. Of course no one who’s within shouting distance of their right mind expects advertising to show realistic situations, but this is like David Lynch Does Diet. ‘Loser’ is rather a borrowed insult, more common in the US than the UK, so it’s not quite so emotive as, say, ‘ugly stunted minger-beast’. But it’s still, y’know, Not Very Nice, not positive, not the best way to march your target demographic down the aisle of Tesco. Then there’s that clever new meaning – losing weight is good, therefore being a ‘loser’ is actually a Good Thing. See? ‘You could lose up to an inch,’ babbles the voiceover, ‘from bust, waist and hips’. Yes! But er, an inch of what? Fat? Skin? Muscle? Sanity? What if you’ve only got three-quarters of an inch of stuff on your bust, waist and hips to start with? Can you carry over the rest to your thighs? Exchange it for Nectar points? What? No matter. It’s another dodgy attempt to cash in on the desperation of people who will risk their health to be thinner. All you have to accept is that it’s good to be a loser, and it’s good to disregard such half-arsed advice and go and eat some fucking fruit instead.

Such a bizarre campaign makes some sense when you discover Kellogg’s roots in grinding negative grit into the nourishing wholegrain of meaning, and of poking unwelcome fingers into the crevices of people’s private lives, happiness and health. The inventor of the healthy, boring cereal was Dr John Harvey Kellogg, and when he wasn’t preaching the undeniable benefits of good food, he was raging against the sins of masturbation, which he considered a ‘disease’. He also put his money where his tight-lipped mouth was and performed circumcisions (starting a late 19th century trend which continues to this day), foreskin-wiring operations and cliterodectomies, the latter being the last resort to ‘allay abnormal excitement’. That would only be after he’d advised the application of mild, soothing carbolic acid. A gentle, compassionate soul, then. His brother Will took over the corn-flake-making, bunged sugar on the horrid things and made the company a great success, to the extent that the mad doctor never spoke to him again. Although that may have been because Will was saying hi to his monster on a daily basis, just to piss him off.

The dippy, results-fixated advertisers behind the ‘Loser’ campaign doubtless have little awareness of their place in the line of cereal-related sanctioners of human misery and negaters of sexy sugary Fun. But some other enterprising agency is bound to notice that a long-skewed balance needs redressing, and start making risque ads giggling that ‘research has proven’ that ten minutes of vigorous masturbation after breakfast burns more calories than an hour of guilt-ridden flesh-pinching. With the slogan, blaring from buses and billboards, ‘Kellogg’s – the only cereal with cock.’

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