All posts tagged: advertising

Why Budweiser’s “America” Rebrand Matters

Yesterday, Anheuser-Busch announced plans to rebrand Budweiser as “America” from late May through the November elections. Citing upcoming events like the 2016 Olympic Games, the Copa América soccer tournament (which will be held in the US for the first time), and the fall’s presidential election, Ricardo Marques, a vice president at Budweiser, declared it will “probably the most American summer of our generation.” It’s an event that Anheuser-Busch is keen to capitalize upon, though the invocation of “our generation” is interesting as “Millennials” (if we even exist as something more than a marketing category) are some of the least likely consumers to be purchasing packs of “America” this summer. Relatedly, Anheuser-Busch aims “to inspire drinkers to celebrate America and Budweiser’s shared values of freedom and authenticity.” This latter value seems particularly contentious given the ever-increasing market share of craft beers, which trade upon (perhaps equally constructed) notions of authenticity, identity, and lifestyle. Budweiser has directly targeted this tension, as their 2015 Super Bowl spot and subsequent ads throughout the year spread a distinctly anti-craft message, which can’t be separated from the brand’s subsequent claims to Americanness. Anti-craft messaging aside, this rebranding of a national …

CFP: Critical Nutrition Studies Panel at ASFS 2016

If you engage critical nutrition studies in your work, my colleague Stephanie Maroney (PhD Candidate, Cultural Studies, UC Davis) and I welcome your submissions to join our panel submission to the ASFS/AFHVS/CAFS conference to be held June 22-26, 2016 in Toronto. The panel, “Interrogating Nutritionism and Dietary Science in Novel Food Products,” examines the discursive effects of the marketing for two novel food products: FairLife Milk (Emily) and the Human Food Bar (Stephanie). The panel explores the relationship between the cultural values that animate these advertising messages and the scientific research that supports these products.   Drawing from the field of Science and Technology Studies, critical studies of nutrition recognize and reveal the ways that scientific knowledge is not neutral, natural, or objective – rather, it is co-constituted alongside sociocultural values and beliefs. By looking at the history and politics of dietary advice, we can better explain and account for the assumptions that structure contemporary nutrition science and the marketing claims used to differentiate products in our health-centric culture. We seek additional papers that critically examine …

Savoring Gotham in Edward Hopper Paintings + A Star Wars Rant

I’m thrilled to have written a few entries in the newly published Savoring Gotham: A Food Lover’s Companion to New York City, edited by Andrew F. Smith. As I flip through this tome—brimming with stories about Gotham’s notable foods and beverages, restaurants and bars, historical sites and events, cuisines, personalities, and brands from throughout the city’s five boroughs—one of my favorite entries so far is on Edward Hopper’s paintings of New York City food life. Depicting at times eerily quiet moments with minimal action between human figures, Hopper’s subject matter often drew from urban sites of quotidian America life, including food spaces—modest restaurants, automats, coffee shops, and chop suey joints—which Hopper frequented often with his wife. His paintings use these culinary locales, however, to express the common themes that mark his body of work: anonymity, anxiety, pensiveness, loneliness, and isolation. Hopper’s work critiques the promises of an abundant, fast-paced, cosmopolitan life in the big city, showing how the easy availability of food and drink at all times of the day and night might not lead to contentment. Instead, it fosters dissatisfaction and unease. More isn’t better. …

Vegemite: Advertising and the Making of an Australian Icon

Chocolate-like in appearance but with a flavor like nothing else on earth, the yeast extract spread Vegemite is essentially synonymous with Australia. Hired by the ambitious Fred Walker to create a copy of the British spread, Marmite (which coincidentally has an adorable Twitter feed), food scientist Cyril Callister developed Vegemite in 1923. Based on a mutual interest in developing a processed cheese with a longer shelf life, Walker joined forces with James Kraft, forming the Kraft Walker Cheese Company in 1926, whose Melbourne factory and head offices are pictured below (image 1). High in B vitamins during an historical moment when vitamins themselves were a new scientific phenomenon, Vegemite was from the beginning marketed by the Fred Walker Company as nutritious, particularly for children. For example, a Vegemite advertisement from the 1920s assured consumers that “there is no food richer in vitamins than Vegemite” and a point of sale advertisement from the 1930s emphasized the spread’s nutritional content and the themes of vitality, health, and childhood (image 2). Despite its vitamin content, consumers were initially slow to …

Food History Roundup: 6 Posts on 1950s Convenience Cuisine

Titled, “Beef Fizz and Other Strange Recipes from the ’50s-’60s,” my most recent Zester Daily article was published last week, a short piece dedicated to my fascination with mid-century cuisine. Over the summer, I have indulged my mid-century penchant by picking up dozens of vintage cookbooks, including six more just last night! These cookbooks are mostly from the 1950s and 1960s, but some earlier in the twentieth century (I can’t wait to write about The Sunny Side of Life Book, published by the Kellogg Company in 1934) and some later (like Betty Crocker’s Family Dinners In a Hurry, whose fourteenth printing ran in 1980). It’s a borderline reckless hobby, adding more books to an already large collection of literature, public health texts, and food studies books, but I’m sure it’ll provide inspiration for many a blog post. I’ve already written a bit on convenience food, packaged-food cuisine, my love of Laura Shapiro’s Something from the Oven, and what food and cooking meant mid-century. Here’s a quick roundup in roughly chronologically historical order: 1. Wartime, Memorial Day … & Kraft American Cheese? Focusing on …

Archive Adventures #2: Wartime, Memorial Day … & Kraft American Cheese?

With the tagline, “Hanker No More!” this advertisement from my archive adventures at the Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History at Duke University celebrates the return of not only America’s World War II heros, but of Kraft cheese products, like Kraft American cheese, Velveeta, and “Old English” Pasteurized Process Cheese, which were rationed on the home front. Ad copy commiserates with America’s housewives: “For a long time during the war, you couldn’t get an ounce of this mellow, smooth-melting cheese; since then a single package has been ‘a find.’” Now, however, the “cheddar goodness you’ve missed so long” has not only returned to supermarket shelves, but “is plentiful.” Furthermore, while an ounce was once impossible to procure, Kraft American cheese could now be purchased in a five-pound loaf or by the half pound (packaged in blue) if preferred. Such linguistic comparisons of weights and measures reveal some evidence of the food industry’s post-war aim to not only find domestic markets for wartime goods, but to increase consumption more generally. Finally, nearly all of the other advertisements that I collected for Kraft cheeses during the …

Publication Update! Toned Tummies & Bloated Bellies: Activia Yogurt & Gendered Digestion

I’m thrilled to share that my article, “Toned Tummies and Bloated Bellies: Activia Yogurt and Gendered Digestion,” was recently published in CuiZine: The Journal of Canadian Food Cultures. I blogged about this project when I first completed it about a year ago and could not be more honored that it was selected as CuiZine‘s best graduate student paper in 2013 by a committee featuring the food writers, scholars, and researchers Maeve Haldane, Ian Mosby, and David Szanto. As I analzyed this probiotic yogurt that continues to populate the dairy case with its iconic green containers, I drew from print and online advertisements, product packaging, press coverage, and industry reports, as well as a variety of secondary sources that analyze digestion as a cultural act. When I first began this study, Jamie Lee Curtis served as a spokeswoman so enthusiastic that her commercials had become the stuff of Saturday Night Live parody. Most all Activia advertisements targeted women, many featuring feminine touches, from the product’s waist-like logo to commercials’ girly jingle—“Ac-tiv-i-aaaah!” Furthermore, whether a print ad or TV commercial, nearly every marketing effort …

Archive Adventures #1: The Oh-So-Glamorous World of Velveeta & Cheez Whiz

Telling the story of how the food industry won over (albeit not immediately) the hearts and kitchens of America’s housewives, Laura Shapiro‘s Something from the Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950s America (2004) is hands down one of my favorite food history texts. I very truly geeked out when she signed my copy at the Siting Julia symposium in 2012. As “deliciously readable” as The New York Times Book Review claims it to be, this delightful book demonstrates how in the years following World War II, the food industry, women’s magazines, and the press alike attempted to sell housewives on convenience food products, emphasizing the technological wonderment and time saving attributes of frozen vegetables, canned meats, and complete frozen meals. I got a taste of this myself when I was researching the marketing of Kraft food products in the archives at the Hartman Center at Duke University last month. But first, let’s talk a little history. Despite the industry’s best efforts, food technology at first failed to capture housewives’ hearts or stomachs. Women who had utilized processed foods during wartime rationing did not desire to do so when …

Curating the History of Freshness

In Fresh: A Perishable History, Susanne Freidberg chronicles the fascinating history of how refrigeration expanded the reach of the industrial food system, forever altering not only the world’s food supply, but also how consumers view freshness and conceptualize its meaning. She tells this story through a series of mini-histories focusing on specific foods: beef, eggs, fruit, vegetables, milk, and fish. In doing so, she reveals the many meanings of “fresh,” five of which are discussed in the following five images. 1. The Refrigerator Consumers once got along without refrigeration, shopping frequently and preserving food by canning, drying, and pickling. In fact, consumers were at first wary of refrigeration, though World War I marked a turning point. While meat and wheat were shipped to the warfront, American civilians were encouraged to consume fresh foods, unsuitable for shipment to soldiers. Consuming fresh produce, eggs, and dairy products were considered acts of both patriotism (as seen in this WWI food poster) and scientifically based health promotion, confirming the new place of these foods in the American diet and the role …

“It’s Always Summer-time in Your Kitchen:” Food Safety as Depicted in Home Refrigerator Advertising in the Interwar Years

What follows is an expanded abstract for the paper, “‘It’s Always Summer-time in Your Kitchen:’ Food Safety as Depicted in Home Refrigerator Advertising in the Interwar Years.”  Americans currently live in an age when food safety scares are headline news and an issue of concern for consumers. Take for example the ever-expanding peanut butter salmonella recall. While foodborne illness is a product of a long and complex food supply chain, its effects are often experienced in domestic environments of food consumption, such as the home kitchen. In fact, the evolution of the modern kitchen sits within a larger historical narrative of consumer food safety. Consider the home refrigerator, for example. Several scholars herald household refrigeration as one of the most important food safety achievements of the twentieth century (CDC 1999: 906; FPT 2011: 132; Roberts 2001: 29). Perhaps not coincidentally, the rise in home refrigerator ownership was coupled with, and fueled by, fervent consumer messaging from refrigerator marketers and home economics specialists alike. In his analysis, Peter Grahame argues that there is great variance among the content of …