Super Bowl Ads Go Healthy: Selling Yogurt With A Steamy Kiss

| January 31, 2014 | 0 Comments
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Post by Allison Aubrey, The Salt at NPR Food (1/31/14)

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We’re all accustomed to Super Bowl ads for chips and soda and beer.

But it’s a new day. And, this year, we’ll also get pitched on healthier fare.

For starters, there will be lots of yogurt ads — both Dannon and Chobani will make a play for game-time viewers. Pistachios will make their debut. And Cheerios will keep it interesting, too.

Now, in order to overcome the better-for-you snooze factor, companies are turning to sex appeal, star power and intimate father-daughter moments to create a buzz.

Take the Dannon ad for its Greek-style Oikos. The vibe is decidedly steamy. It stars actor John Stamos (who starred in the TV sitcom Full House in the early ’90s, around the same time he was named one of People magazine’s most beautiful people).

In the ad, Stamos has a dab of yogurt kissed from his lip by a beautiful woman.

Now, sales of yogurt have grown steadily in recent years. And moms and kiddos are eating plenty of it. So who is Dannon trying to appeal to here?

Everyone, it turns out. With a huge audience on Sunday, spanning multiple generations, Dannon hopes to catch the attention of lots of folks.

But “the big opportunity for us is with 20- and 30-somethings,” says Art D’Elia, vice president of marketing at Dannon.

Meanwhile, General Mills has already generated buzz for its ad slated to air Sunday, which features a bi-racial family.

Don’t look for any talk about nutrition or taste in this ad. The pitch is for something bigger than just a bowl of cereal.

The aim is to promote family together time. General Mills has joined efforts with a non-profit, The Family Dinner Project, which is promoting the same message. The joint project is called the Family Breakfast Project.

“It’s important for us to be more than … a circular O, that’s made of oats and doesn’t have a lot of sugar,” Doug Martin, marketing manager for Cheerios, told us.

When families sit around the breakfast table, it’s the experience that he hopes folks will connect to the Cheerios brand.

Now, how to jazz up nuts?

The folks at Wonderful Pistachios are hoping that funnyman Stephen Colbert can help boost their brand.

Just don’t expect Colbert to educate us on the fiber and protein content of nuts. Nope. This spot is likely to be much more playful.

So, if companies are increasingly pitching more healthful foods, why don’t we hear much about, well healthfulness?

Advertising and marketing expert Bob McKinnon of Galewill Design says there’s a risk of coming off as preachy, which isn’t so effective.

Health is not as important a motivator when it comes to getting consumers to buy as “appealing to people at a direct, human level,” McKinnon told us.

So, playing to people’s emotions, to sex appeal, or to an ideal — such as a strong family bond — can all be powerful ways to connect with consumers, McKinnon says.

Now, of course, the Super Bowl ad line-up still includes lots of pitches for beer, chips and chocolate. For instance, M&Ms didn’t miss the chance to capitalize on twerking, Miley Cyrus-style.

And a few new Dorito ads are scheduled to air.

This one elicited quite a reaction from my colleagues here. Lots of us at The Salt agreed: We were grossed out. For us, it didn’t pass the taste test. But maybe an ick vibe makes it more memorable?

We asked McKinnon.

“There are a lot of young people and young guys who [will be] watching the Super Bowl who are probably going to find that hilarious.”

Copyright 2014 NPR.

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Food and Health-related stories from NPR including NPR Radio; NPR's food blog, "The Salt"; NPR's Health News blog, "Shots"; NPR's Breaking News blog "The Two-Way"; NPR's economy explainer "Planet Money"; food-related technology news from NPR's "All Tech Considered"; and food series "Kitchen Window."