It’s still anybody’s guess which team will claim victory in the Super Bowl this Sunday, but one underdog has emerged an unlikely winner: vegetables. This crunchy victory comes after a barrage of criticism from public health advocates and consumers forced Taco Bell to pull an ad mocking veggies—and anyone who might dare bring them to a Super Bowl party.
The offending 15-second spot is pretty much what we’ve come to expect from any company trying to appeal to what we might as well call “generation bro.” In the spot, a clueless 20-something shows up at a game-day party and tosses a plastic container of crudités to the young woman who answers the door. As she turns it over in her hand, her welcoming smile wilts, and the announcer says, “Bringing veggies on game day is like punting on fourth and one; it’s a cop out. And secretly, people kind of hate you for it.”
Cut to an image of sad, pallid carrot sticks, broccoli and cauliflower sitting unopened and unloved in their clamshell sarcophagus next to a honking Taco Bell Variety Taco 12 Pack (“a game-day tradition since right now,” i.e., it’s new).
As expected, a frenzy of hands are seen diving into the Taco 12 Pack with as much reserve as a pack of hyenas tearing into a gazelle carcass on the Serengeti. There’s a brief glimpse of the young woman who answered the door, somehow smiling pretty even though her mouth is stuffed full and she has to wipe something off the side of it. (Subliminal message: “Dude, if you bring veggies to a party, you’re never going to score.”)
The nonprofit public health advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest (which, incidentally, also recently bestowed its annual Xtreme Eating awards for gut-busting menu items at American restaurant chains) led the charge against the ad, calling on its followers to tweet their protests to Taco Bell.
Incredibly, Taco Bell responded—fast. (Score one for social media activism!)
Shortly after the ad was pulled, the folks at CSPI issued the following statement: “It’s bad enough that there aren’t many ads on television for broccoli, kale or carrots. The last thing healthy fruits and vegetables needed was to be the subject of attack ads. We are delighted that Taco Bell is pulling an ad that urged people not to bring veggie trays to their Super Bowl parties, but to instead bring 12-packs of Taco Bell’s tacos. Thanks to Taco Bell for responding with record speed to address nutritionists’ and consumers’ concern over this ad campaign.”
Of course, the devilish irony is that now you want to see the ad, right?
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Jason Best has worked for Gourmet and the Natural Resources Defense Council. He writes about food, sustainability and the environment.
- Taco Bell