Cool Whip has an image problem. It is an over-sweet, under-nourishing, decorative food product, containing loads of corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup, vegetable oils, a milk derivative called sodium casein ate, xanthan and guar gums, polysorbate 60 (an emulsifier), sorbitan monostearate (a synthetic wax), beta carotene--oh, and a bit of skim milk. 

Some find it delightful, others disgusting. It certainly isn't a necessary or healthy part of anyone's diet--it is high in fat and carbs. The revolting YouTube videos of Cool Whip Abuse haven't helped the company's image, except perhaps in dorms.

So Cool Whip launched a new ad campaign, using highly regarded mom bloggers to tout the benefits of their product. (One of them is my highly respected and talented colleague at Moms Clean Air Force, Ana Flores. In the ad, Ana has no last name--none of the women does, sadly--though she does have a terrific website, Spanglish Baby.) 

The ad campaign has whipped up controversy on the web--but the commentaries are almost entirely focused on the way the women look. They are too thin, too beautiful, too flat-chested, too fit....all of it. Why didn't Cool Whip use plus-size women? (Er, that's not exactly the message here.)

I'm 100% with PhD in Parenting: media analysis is a worthy, even crucial subject--we should pay attention to how women are portrayed in ads.

But why do women get so obsessed with looks? We're missing the larger point. 

Cool Whip is highly appealing to children--who aren't controlling Purchase Decisions at the supermarket. Usually, their moms are. How do you get moms to add Cool Whip to the shopping cart? Tell them it is good for them. Or fun. Or easy. Anything. Mom buys it, children eat it. I defy any parent to eat Cool Whip in front of a child--and not share. The Trojan Horse approach to advertising--smuggle stuff past the guards in something familiar: Mom.  

Cool Whip paid each blogger a boatload of money for their participation--of course. I'm sure that not a single one of them would have done this campaign for free, nor should they have, though that would be a real endorsement of Cool Whip. Most bloggers can't turn down serious money. Personal blogs (with a few exceptions) are rarely going to be cash cows, no matter what anyone says about how to "monetize" them with ads. I don't think I'm the only reader who avoids sponsored posts (press releases); I unsubscribe to blogs when the balances tips. 

Any blogger who sells her authority is going to have to be prepared for negative feedback. As Jessica Gottlieb asks: "Is this the sort of campaign you're hoping to land one day? Can you take the criticism?" Money is a salve for wounded egos. 

Sponsor with care.

Cool Whip hasn't killed anyone. But obesity, at epidemic levels in this nation, does kill--each and every single day.  

When a blogger gives it up for a product, it means she is throwing her reputation behind it. When a mom gives it up for a product--well, she's taking it to another level. Trust me: the kids are watching every move we make. Moms have enormous power. We have worked hard to earn it. Let's use it wisely.



Anonymous said...

Dominique, did you happen to catch the episode of "Mad Men" where the ad agency was given the task of introducing Cool Whip to the country in the mid-1960s? The "Husband" kept asking basic analytical questions, such as, What is it? Is it a dessert? Is it a topping? Is it frozen? While the "Wife" cajolingly repeated, Just try it! Just try it? Just try it... It was comical to watch as a flashback to those of us who remember Cool Whip's debut; your post is a disturbing reminder of what was actually happening to the chemistry of food at that time.

Jessica Gottlieb said...

I didn't realize Ana was with mcaf.

That leaves me speechless.

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