Ad Break #9 Mixed Veg Messages

“Eat them to defeat them!” declares this rather dynamic advert in which evil looking veg emerge from under the ground to bare their teeth and terrorize the neighbourhood. “For years the grown ups have been keeping the veg invasion at bay… but they can’t do it alone” the voiceover continues over scenes of people battling broccoli and clashing with courgettes. Kids can help apparently by eating more veg hence the slogan. “Peas- you’re going down” yells a girl as the offending items are brandished on a fork before she eats them. This admittedly well- made amusing ad seems to give off some very mixed, even confusing messages about vegetables. You can see where they’re coming from but I’m not sure it will have quite the intended effect especially amongst younger children who may be put off by some of the imagery used. So what’s going on?

Launched on 25 January, the ad was created by ITV and an organisation called Veg Power. It was made by respected agency Adam and Eve/ DBB and directed by Ninian Doff of Pulse Films. It is in fact the spearhead of a planned extensive campaign across TV, cinema and outdoor locations as well as on social media. There will be advert posters, stickers and wall charts where children become the hero who, with the help of their parents, will try and save the world from being overrun by these angry vegetables. The campaign is funded by a rare coming together of major retailers including Aldi, Asda, Co-op, Iceland, Lidl, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Ocado, Sainsburys, Tesco and Waitrose as well as Birds Eye. ITV has donated £2m of airtime across its channels for a twelve week period. 

The campaign also has widespread support amongst prominent food writers and broadcasters such as Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, who says: “I’m really pleased and excited to be involved in Veg Power. Getting our kids to eat more vegetables is simply vital. This campaign is brave, fun and engaging. It will inspire kids to enjoy the huge range of tastes, textures and colours that the brilliant world of veg has to offer.” ITV’s CEO Carolyn McCall adds: “This campaign will reach millions of parents and children through our biggest and most popular shows and it is unlike anything that has gone before. We’re proud to use the power of TV to take a new, bold and brave approach to encouraging kids to eat more vegetables.”
So who are Veg Power? Their stated aim is to tackle the rise of childhood obesity and build a permanent advertising fund for vegetables.  They aim to change people’s perception of vegetables to encourage young people and indeed everyone to eat more vegetables. The organisation’s Chair  Baroness Rosie Boycott says: “With the aim of using ‘advertising for good’ and engaging and entertaining kids rather than using the well-worn health message, we can really shift the dial and hope to see long lasting behaviour change.”
While you can never be sure who will take notice of an advert the campaign is supposedly aimed at the somewhat staggering 80% of kids and 96% of teenagers who apparently don't eat enough vegetables. The thinking is that making something they will find more relatable may change these eating habits. That of course depends on what they might relate to and I’m not entirely convinced a horror pastiche is the best choice in terms of appealing to the largest amount of young people. It may even make some start to think of veg as scary. Also, the ad’s presumption that adults do eat plenty of vegetables is also not necessarily the case. On the other hand the ad is lively, fun and avoids serious health messages. Shot like extracts from a movie it will definitely be noticed.
It will take a while to see how much impact the campaign has and I’ve yet to see teens hanging around in public places munching on carrots but its early days. The idea of kids not liking veg seems strange given that they always seem to prefer brightly coloured things. Some research suggests that far from being naturally ill disposed to peas, broccoli and company a lot of children follow the lead of their veg avoiding parents. So perhaps this worthy advertising campaign is targeting the wrong people….?

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