He Said, She Said: Olympic Oatmeal

ICE’s Culinary Management Instructors are seasoned industry professionals who are still active in the industry, working on their own projects while teaching classes at ICE.

With such a wide range of experience between them, we decided to ask Julia Heyer and Vin McCann to take a closer look at the business of running a restaurant and sound off on some of the hottest topics in the restaurant world. Today they dive into the world of advertising and sponsorship by large food corporations.

Julia Heyer: I miss the Olympics. What I do not miss is the barrage of pathos-laden, crappy commercials we were subjected to every four to five minutes while watching the games. One, in particular, was hard to beat on the cringe-scale — the talking oatmeal cup, rejecting the Egg McMuffin and preferring the “tall and dark” coffee coming her way. Personified breakfast items? Ouf. McDonald's, showing your products that may be under 400 calories to position yourself as a healthy option befitting the amazing athletes was just, well, not medal-worthy. Why? The Olympics and McDonalds seem to have the natural brand fit of Dom Perignon and Twinkies (yes, Vin, we can’t seem to escape the Twinkie). Somehow, it feels like putting lipstick on a marketing cash cow.

Vin McCann: The Slow Food devotees, bloggers, and nanny nutritionists speak to thousands, but Mickey D, Subway and more speak to billions; and when did “good taste” ever matter as an advertisement aesthetic standard? You can’t blame the Olympic organizers for following the money. Somehow I can’t picture the aforementioned nutrition devotees ponying up the dough McDonalds and Subway did to enhance their images. Cheap, convenient food sells, whether “tall and dark” or stubby and stout. Sure they are packed with calories and imitate flavor with heavy doses of salt, fat, and sugar, but let’s not lose sight of their best attribute — they are inexpensive. Were the commercials in poor taste? I can’t say. This fortunate soul was out of earshot when the oatmeal was talking.

Julia’s Response: Well, lucky you. I got an earful of oatmeal, which is probably better than a mouthful of it: fillers, salt, sugar, calories and all.  I am not saying that good (or my taste) should be the standard for what makes good advertising. However, McDonald's as the official restaurant of the Olympics and by extension its athletes and their achievements is distasteful

Vin’s Response: I don’t disagree on the schizoid issues involved in what is clearly a shotgun marriage of interest. My point is simply that this is the way it is. As that old tune from Cabaret declared, “money makes the world go around, the world go around” and the relays run, the volleyballs fly, the javelin soar. Global events beg for global sponsors, so the multi-nationals rule. Unless things change dramatically, and it’s doubtful they will. The road to Rio I am sorry to say will be paved with oatmeal.

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