In this feature column I will take an overly in-depth look at examples of asinine advertising.
My pops was in town to visit this past weekend. It got me thinking about father-son relationships. Each one is different. But what is the prototypical ‘father-son bond’? A commercial for Kellogg’s Corn Flakes tries to sell us some cereal by portraying an idealized version of the dad-son kinship in a 30-second spot. Although this commercial has been around for a couple of years, I’ve noticed that it has been getting a ton of play lately. Watch it:
You might be thinking, “Pretty harmless stuff. It’s actually kind of sweet…just like Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes. Better add it to the grocery list.” Before you decide to sweeten Kellogg’s coffers, hear me out as I analyze this commercial.
-0:00-0:05 – A boy and his dad play some catch. Fine so far.
-0:05-0:11 – Hold on, there’s an animated human-like tiger wearing a goofy scarf (in the middle of summer, mind you) picking up a ball. And he’s holding a baseball bat. Nothing? Okay, so it’s implied that this is nothing out of the ordinary. Suspending disbelief. I have to assume they’re all friends.
-0:11-0:13 – The kid catches it and throws it back precisely ONCE and they bolt…without even so much as saying goodbye to Tony. Poor Tony is just standing there holding the bat, watching them walk off together. Cripes. Dad’s not teaching a very good lesson in friendship. Nor is it a great message to send about dedication. Does that kid really want to get better at baseball. His throw could certainly use some work.
-0:13-0:14 – “Now for the best part” says Dad, holding a box of Frosted Flakes. First of all, why are they eating breakfast right now? Did he seriously bribe his kid to go out and toss around the ball with the prospect of a post-catch bowl of flakes? Second of all, since when has cereal EVER been considered the best part of anything, let alone breakfast? Go to any breakfast buffet in the world – is there ever a lineup at the cereal counter? NEVER. I could name at least 200 other breakfast foods that are far superior to cereal. How about some bacon and eggs, Dad?
-0:14-0:15 – “Let’s see your pour,” says Dad. He’s going to evaluate how well the kid pours cereal in a bowl? He doesn’t care that the kid throws like Carly Rae Jepsen yet he’s concerned about how he moves flakes from a box to a bowl.
-0:15-0:18 – “Let’s get those in the bowl, these are way too good to waste.” He chastises the poor kid when he drops a couple of flakes on the table. Obsessive compulsive disorder much?
-0:18-0:22 – This is where I absolutely lose my mind. This joker has the balls to try to show his son some kind of special technique for eating cereal. “Let’s go for it – around the bowl, and…!” Let’s go for it?! Go for what?! Emptiest bonding moment? Is this how Kellogg’s thinks fathers and sons act? Imagine for a moment that when my dad and I ordered a pizza this weekend, we opened up the box, he handed me a plate and said, “Let’s do this!” I would have immediately called the police and retreated to the safe room. And then there’s ‘around the bowl.’ ‘Around the bowl’?! If I were that kid I would have dropped my spoon and asked, “Are you trying to tell me how to eat cereal, old man? I know how to dip a spoon into a pool of milk. This ain’t my first frosted flake rodeo. You eat your way and I’ll eat mine. No wonder you never made it to the majors – you spent all your time trying to perfect your ‘around the bowl’ move instead of your slider.” I wonder if Dad has other special or superfluous moves for trivial actions. Like, when he brushes his teeth, does he go “bicuspids first.”
-0:22-0:25 – By the way, the dad has his ‘around the bowl’ move, presumably to make sure he gets all of the flakes that are sticking to the perimeter of the bowl, yet then he’s seen drinking directly out of the bowl to suck out every last morsel which seems to defeat the original purpose of ‘around the bowl.’ Also, have a little dignity and pour your excess milk in the sink. You’re like 40 years old. Grow up.
-0:25-0:28 – Tony, presumably undeterred that he didn’t get the invite, barges in to deliver his catch phrase. These asshole still refuse to acknowledge him. I would think the standard reaction would be either, 1) “Hey Tony, they certainly ARE great.” OR 2) “Holy mother of god, a wild cat got into our kitchen – we’re all going to die!”
-0:28-0:31 – “Nice catch, Dad.” Someone needs to tell that kid the definition of “catch.”
Here’s the point. This is an inauthentic portrayal of a special father-son bond that’s attempting to elicit warm-and-fuzzies that you’ll associate with a global brand so that you’ll pay an extra $2 for sugary cereal featuring an obsequious tiger with questionable fashion sense on the box. Don’t do it. Buy the generic brand, if you must get your flake on. This commercial panders to an unsophisticated sensibility of what it means to have a precious moment with dad. This isn’t a special father-son relationship. This is garbage. The tact they take here is base and offensive.
When it comes down to it, I don’t think there’s such thing as an “ideal” father-son relationship. I’m happy to appreciate the unique bond I have with my Dad. It was great to see him this weekend. He’s a great guy. He doesn’t have a unique method for eating cereal. And he doesn’t manufacture bonding moments. And he certainly would have invited Tony in for breakfast, even if that tiger is a bit of a sycophantic loner. My Dad doesn’t pretend to be anyone other than who he is. And that’s what makes him terrific.