Okay so I’ve been watching some of the kerfuffle via Sociological Images and Jezebel regarding the Snack Factory Pretzel Crisps ads appearing around New York City. My take? The folks at the pretzel company are being willfully dense about the entire thing, even though they ARE taking steps that MIGHT (I hope) lead to reconsidering not just one ad but the entire campaign.
To sum up, in case you haven’t been watching or just haven’t caught wind of it yet, apparently the company began posting this ad around NYC (Via Sociological Images):
A bunch of twitter-pating and such later and the company begrudgingly removed this ad. However it turns out this was just one in a set of four; of which this second is still being promoted (Via Jezebel):
According to the twittering pretzel folks “We’re a thin pretzel cracker… ‘Thin’ just happens to be a good word to describe the shape of our product.” Well you know what else might work? How about I find you a few words to replace “thin” and “skinny”, words so intrinsically tied to body image no matter what you are trying to willfully claim here?
I mean, come on, really? Just because you don’t follow PETA standards or high fashion protocol by having bikini-clad normatively beautiful women draped over your damn product doesn’t mean you aren’t fully aware of EXACTLY the social meme you were hoping to capitalize upon with these very precisely worded ads.
Words MEAN things people. Either you’re willfully ignoring this in communicating to those objecting to these ads or you’re living in some sort of beautiful fairy world where “thinspiration” and the Fantasy of Being Thin is not a way of life. I mean, really, I’d like to live in the imagination world these folks inhabit where such phrases can possibly be interpreted in a non-weight-loss-inspired (even pro-ana) way.
So how about I give you a few other words you could have used, eh? I mean how about one of these instead:
bony, cadaverous, emaciated, fragile, gangling, gangly, gaunt, haggard, meager, narrow, peaked, pinched, puny, scrawny, shriveled, skeletal, skinny, spindly, starved, undernourished, underweight, wan, wasted, wizened
Huh? Not quite the image you were going for? Oh. Okay Well, sorry, but looking up “skinny” brings up pretty much the same list as for “thin”. So does “thin” really describe what you’re going for here? A nice emaciated pretzel? Very taste-inspiring, no?
Okay, no, you’re right. I should be fully honest; that wasn’t the full list of possible words. I could have chosen (*cough*justlikeyoucouldhave*cough*) some of the OTHER, less obviously part-of-a-negative-body-image-discourse, sorts of synonyms for “thin” or “skinny”. How about one of these?
delicate, ethereal, featherweight, fine, light, narrow, slight, small
How about “So light and airy, we think the feather might fall faster”. “Just a slight reminder of how tasty we can be”. “Delicately delicious”.
See what I did there? I’m not even IN marketing and yet I managed to quickly choose a few words (and even come up with slogans, you’re welcome) which don’t necessarily bring immediately to mind the half-naked, weight obsessed women you’re so proud you didn’t drape around your ads (at least in images) like so many others blatantly do.
So while the company has taken the first step by agreeing to remove the first objected-to ad because they “didn’t intend to advocate unhealthy weight loss”, there is still this lingering wonder I have if the entire campaign will be rethought or if this one action was taken as a token gesture of “See, we capitulated to the masses. Now hush-up and leave our remaining pro-ana-inspired ads alone you meanies!”
Come on Pretzel Crisps; prove me wrong for worrying. You claim to understand that images of women as objects and props used to sell food is tacky. You also took down one offensive ad clearly promoting the ideal that a person (or pretzel?) can NEVER be too thin. Brava! Now take that one small step past this and realize that it isn’t just that one ad; that words can do just as much harm as pictures, and remove those equally damning slogans as well.
I’m hoping myself that the company will choose to take a fresh eye to these sorts of slogans and recognize just how harmful a mentality they come from and end up promoting.
Again, one more time (sing it with me if you’d like), in closing, I would like to remind Pretzel Crisps and everyone else: Words MEAN things. They don’t exist in a vacuum. Words are informed by the culture in which were are seeped and it is blatant ostrich-head-in-sand behavior to just ignore this when crafting ads.
Words. They mean things.