The Song May Remember When but the Internet NEVER Forgets

Trisha Yearwood’s 1993 song referenced above is deserving of an extended quote and better still a listen. I figured out how to add musical media so give it a listen. If not, these are the opening two stanzas.

I was standing at the counter
I was waitin’ for the change
When I heard that old familiar music start
It was like a lighted match
Had been tossed into my soul
It was like a dam had broken in my heart

After taking every detour
Gettin’ lost and losin’ track
So that even if I wanted I could not find my way back
After drivin’ out the memory of the way things might have been
After I’d forgotten all about us
The song remembers when

The words themselves are touching, melodic, reminiscent; the song itself more so. The point being the song remembering one is poignant. The internet remembering everything is at best creepy and at worst threatening. I remembered reading years ago that Elmer’s glue, not milk, was used in the bowl for cereal box covers. I typed that in, and Google replies with an article from 1999.

This is a relevant issue even today. Burger King is being sued for their depictions of Whoopers being larger than they are. Subway was sued over the footlong sub that wasn’t 12 inches. And we all know that almost 10 years ago Star-Kist was sued and lost for selling 5 ounces of tuna as 6 ounces. I got 50 dollars’ worth of tuna out of that; you won’t get much more from reading this, but see how the internet remembers when…

 Marketing agencies order illusions so ads can serve up ‘perfect’ food; Deceptive cuisine includes glued cereal, marbles in soda cup

By June Arney, Baltimore Sun, Nov 20, 1999 at 12:00 am

It’s a curious world where ice cubes never melt, cereal is served with a drizzle of Elmer’s Glue, luscious-looking roast turkey is actually raw in the middle, and the quest for the ultimate hamburger bun sometimes entails examining 200 others first.

On the sets where television and print advertisements are born, these are the ordinary. Here, the advertising industry faces some of its greatest challenges and requires its most creative techniques.

Food advertising in the United States is estimated to be an $11 billion business and is being used to help sell everything from banks to cars to casinos.

Nothing is left to chance in the creation of the advertisements and commercials people see. But often what is really being sold is smoke and mirrors.

“Food is being used more and more across the board for advertising because of its emotional appeal,” said Martha Torres, a food stylist in New Orleans. “Certain foods are very evocative, and you use them to sell other things.”

When Merchant’s National Bank of Mobile, Ala., wanted a new marketing campaign, its advertising firm opted to use an apple pie, believing it represented something both traditional and comforting. The ad agency immediately called in Torres to make the perfect pie.

The commercial showed a golden brown apple pie a la mode, steam rising from its lattice top.

“You see this happy family,” Torres said. “The mother comes in holding the pie, and they all look up. It’s a warm moment. It’s an emotional moment. Pie is a comfort food.”

What viewers saw was something quite different from reality. The “pie” was a batch of instant mashed potatoes baked into a crust, with diced-apple baby food spooned into the little squares of the lattice.

The “ice cream” was a mixture of corn syrup, confectioners’ sugar and shortening.

Even the steam was fake — concocted from two chemicals that when combined form a white smoke, giving the illusion that the pie was hot.

Mixing the bank and apple pie makes sense, said Neil M. Alperstein, an associate professor of popular culture at Loyola College. It allows a bank, often viewed as cold and steely, to be associated with feelings of “hearth and home,” he said.

“By aligning banking services with apple pie, then the hope is that the message of warm and fuzzy will resonate within the consumer,” Alperstein said.

But making sure that message translates properly takes a bit of magic.

More than other types of marketing, illusions are built into food advertising to enhance their appeal. Part of that, industry experts say, is being pragmatic — food is perishable.

“If you take the major categories of product photography like fashion and cars and cosmetics, food by far has to have the most manipulation and tweaking and fussing to make it look good,” said Rob Holmes, a photographer and owner of HolmeZart, a visual design company in Towson. “Food is a living thing, and as it sits on the set, it’s dying. We have to make it look incredibly appetizing or it just won’t sell. That’s where the tricks come in.”

Although advertisers are allowed considerable license, there are guidelines prohibiting unfair and deceptive practices.

The Federal Trade Commission once challenged as “false, misleading and deceptive” a commercial for the Campbell’s Soup Co. because translucent marbles had been placed in the bottom of a bowl so the vegetables would be forced to the top, making the soup appear heartier.

“You can’t use a fake demonstration to make the product do something it doesn’t do,” said Anne Maher, assistant director in the division of advertising practices for the FTC. “You can’t make it possess characteristics it doesn’t have.”

Preparing a food ad or commercial is far from quick or simple. Hershey Foods Corp., for instance, has a two-page document outlining the exact specs for photographing the Hershey’s Kiss, including the exact angle required to capture the little flag that sticks out of the foil wrapper.

The maple syrup that appears in breakfast commercials is usually poured on ice cold to make it flow more slowly.

Elmer’s Glue is used in cereal ads because it looks like milk but doesn’t make the cereal soggy. Sometimes a base of cream cheese is used to position the flakes in an appealing way before the glue is applied.

And consider all those appealing soft drink ads.

The cup is filled with marbles, topped with a wad of crinkled aluminum foil, then filled with the soft drink, which has been allowed to sit at room temperature for several days so that it has lost its carbonation. It’s all designed to make the top of the drink look light and inviting.

Immediately before the shooting, the drink is topped with a whipped cocktail, typically made of dish detergent and mixed with the beverage to provide the desired frothy look — a look that will last about a minute.

Droplets of water, glycerin or corn syrup are then placed on the outside of the cup with an eyedropper to give the appearance of condensation. An atomizer is used to apply a mist to the outside of the cup, creating a sweaty look.

“It will create perfect condensation on the cup, and it will stay forever,” Holmes said.

If a clear glass is required, artificial ice cubes, made of acrylic and costing up to $75 each, are used.

Despite the use of so many illusions, the trend in food advertising has been toward more realism. The November issue of Food and Wine magazine, for instance, shows a turkey cooked completely, instead of the glistening version that is actually raw in the middle, said Debbie Wahl, a food stylist from Chesapeake Beach.

“People expect more realism now,” she said. “People know food better. And they’re more casual; they don’t expect perfection. People find it more appetizing to have the crumbs on the plate or the syrup dripping down. Burn marks on pie crust or meat are more acceptable.”

That may be. But Wahl maintains a collection of devices to help the process. Among them: a mini-propane torch to sear meat or for quickly browning a meat so that it appears done even if it is raw inside; a scalpel to trim minute pieces of food; long dental tweezers to perfectly place food; glue for holding seeds or repairing cracked poultry skin; pins and toothpicks — invisible to consumers — to hold sandwiches together; and glycerin to make foods appear moist.

It takes hours to achieve just the right look.

“You have to be a cook, a scientist, an artist and a psychologist,” Wahl said.

About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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