Monday, April 19, 2010

Frosted Mini-Wheats: Shame of the Nation



As I've mentioned in previous posts, I watch way too much television. I'm one of those poor unfortunate souls with too much time on his hands that spends so much time in front of the boob tube that I'm sure I'll develop some sort of malignant brain tumor further down the line. Whatever. That's something to worry about some other day, I have real problems here and now.

Chief among them is this goddamn Frosted Mini-Wheats commercial. This commercial has been on the air for at least a year at this point and its really been grinding my gears since the first time I saw it. Considering that I watch mostly children's television, the target market for cereal ads featuring anthropomorphic breakfast food, my gears have been ground a lot lately.

So, here's the scenario: we have a boxing match with the Frosted Mini-Wheat going up against a Cheerio. The commentators introduce the contenders and remark on the Mini-Wheat's abundant wholegrain content compared to the paltry showing from the Cheerio. The Mini-Wheat steps up to face the Cheerio (who it should be remarked wears neither trunks nor gloves, in fact he doesn't have limbs or any other human-like features, he may even lack self-awareness of any kind for all we know) and the Cheerio collapses in what we are made to believe is fright at the sheer awesomeness of his frosted opponent.

Now, I'm not defending the Cheerio on a cereal basis here, I'd take Frosted Mini-Wheats any day of the week, but I can't help but feel deep feelings of pity and sadness at this commercial, which I don't think is the point of effective advertising.

First of all, the obvious Rocky homage (that's either the Rocky theme or its non-union Mexican equivalent playing in the background) falls really flat. Rocky was the story of the underdog, a no-name from Philly getting his shot at the big time and taking on Apollo Creed. Clearly that's the parallel the geniuses behind this ad were going for because who doesn't like Rocky? The problem is that if the Mini-Wheat is the Rocky-esque underdog, how does that even work? The entire first half of the ad features the supposedly impartial commentators remarking on how loaded with whole grain Frosted Mini-Wheats are and what a pathetic excuse for a balanced breakfast that poor Cheerio is. We then see the Mini-Wheat's corner man telling him he has "more wholegrain in [his] little finger!" He might as well say "This motherfucker doesn't stand a chance. Kill his ass!" You can't be an underdog with the odds stacked so heavily in your favor.

Secondly, the entire crowd is comprised of various brands of Mini-Wheats: his whole family and all their friends showed up. There isn't a Cheerio in sight. This would be as if the entire crowd was filled with white people shouting at the African-American upstart "We don't want you here!" "Go back where you come from, boy!" This imagery shouldn't be lost on any follower of boxing, a sport with a racially-charged history. At this point I'm really feeling sorry for the Cheerio, the whole match seems rigged to make him fail; the crowd, the commentators, all are against him.

Why can't they talk about some of the Mini-Wheat's weaknesses like the fact that his frosted with sugar? That's not exactly part of a balanced breakfast. I don't care if he has double the fiber of a Cheerio, he also probably has 600% of the sugar and calories.

Now I'm really rooting for the Cheerio. What a great story this could be! With a hostile crowd jeering him and no support whatsoever, the little cereal that could beats the sugary opponent that had everything going for him. This is the stuff great American stories are made of!

Nope, the Cheerio collapses, dead most likely, from fear. The society that feared and hated his people had done him in at last, a humiliating no contest defeat. There is no glory here for the Cheerio. I can picture his poor mother sobbing uncontrollably in some Midwest cereal ghetto. "My baby's dead! MY BABY'S DEAD!"

And so with the Cheerio dead and broken on the mat, the Mini-Wheat's supporters all rush to crown him the victor. They raise him above their heads and decorate him with laurels as a conquering hero, a model for all to emulate, keeping the Mini-Wheat race's honor clean in the face of this Cheerio upstart.

"Didn't know I had it in me." he says, feigning humility. Of course you did, you son of a whore! You had literally every friendly Mini-Wheat face telling you that the Cheerio was "coming in a little short" and that you would clean this fool's clock.

Listen everybody, I blog about Mad Men. I get advertising.