Counter-marketing Junk Food With Rats & Tacos

tacobell.jpgUpdate 2013: Since Taco Bell is lowering the ethics bar to diss healthy veggies in favor of their chem cuisine in the latest Feb 3, 2013 Superbowl ad, I figured I’d drag out my 2007 counter-marketing with rats and tacos ‘ewww’ moments…Think it’s unfair to counter-market with ‘ewww’ tactics?

I’d say it’s unfair to hammer high-risk, low-income kids 24/7 with this toxic crud, adding ‘fourth meal’ promotions to groaning dietary habits and plying kids with sat fat & sodium levels triple the intake of healthy whole foods.

So I figure, gloves off, I’m tossing down the gauntlet in fairness factor since there’s no appealing to the health and wellness of kids. Glad to see Taco Bell made it on the hilarious “10 Junk Foods That Have No Business Existing” 2012 list too, hope that $4 million :30 Superbowl 2013 spot drains their coffers a bit.  Media literacy/critical thinking colleagues will know this is my BIAS stated up front and personal. Now on with the original piece:

(2007) Yum? I think not. Awhile back I wrote about Yum brands’ KFC and Taco Bell fast food franchises trying to extinguish trans-fats. Make that trans-RATS! They now have a new hygiene and sanitation PR nightmare as WNBC broadcasts this video of a dozen rats scampering through a Yum fast food eatery in N.Y. Talk about a new meaning for their ‘run for the border’ tagline.

This video clip sums up the know what you’re eating dilemma, and many like it are YouTubing across the web. (how’s that for a digital-media viral verb?) Media can now instantly and globally bury a brand with E.coli crisis clips and disasters becoming a front page news story in a nanosecond. Bloggers like yours truly leverage the ‘ewww’ factor to get kids to think about fast food studies impacting their health at multiple levels beyond justtrans-fats. Taco Bell sickened 71 people in five states with their E.coli crisis in December, yet STILL ended the year up 1% domestically, so it’s not like they can’t rebound from a dent in sales.

Ironically, Shaping Youth is covering Mexican food tomorrow in our counter-marketing program with our heavily Hispanic demographic in our Title One school which is consuming copious quanities of this junk food-fast food and highly processed-pouched food marketed excessively as convenient grab-n-gos.

We’re tackling ‘sat fat’ in frijoles and cheeses and offering switches to healthier options of fresh-Mex flavors so this might be just the “Ewwwwww” we need to add to our presentation!

All is fair in counter-marketing, so you can bet I’ll use the deep-fried chicken head that someone found in a KFC bucket a few years ago, along with this video to remind kids that junk food has more than just ‘junk’ in it sometimes.

Our wellness program, “Dare to Compare, A Gross Out Game for Good Nutrition” is based on a ‘Fear Factor’ media format, where the kids get grossed out by what they’re consuming via media, mind & body after we take apart their intake logs that they write every week.

Whether it’s seeing all the Blue 1, Yellow 5, and candy bar in a bowl breakfasts they’re eating with gobs of colored, flavored junk like Apple Jacks, Fruit Loops and PopTarts, deconstructing the sodium and sat fat in a Lunchable, or extruding hardened playdough to simulate arteries hardened by too much sodium, kids ‘get it’ when they see and play with hands-on visuals and media deconstruction.

Media clips from “SuperSize Me”, cartoon videos riffing off of Fast Food Nation like “Backwards Hamburger” or even this meat additive animated video on how beef is colorized and gassed to make it more appealing, are helpful to “gross out kids with awareness” and get that ‘ewwww’ factor front and center to change behavior.

So thanks, Yum, for helping me out with my session tomorrow!

In the food fight for kids’ health and well-being, we need all the counter-marketing ammo we can get. All’s fair in film and media.


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