Uninfluenced by religion, cardiovascular health, animal rights, mad-cow disease or sentiment, we will eat almost any part of almost any living thing that cannot spell. We have consumed brains, tongue, duck feet, braised spinal cord, intestines in many forms and, memorably, in Seoul, dog. (No big deal. It tasted just like cat.)
We are not unaware, however, of certain negative vibes surrounding the sins of the flesh. Whether it's the cholesterol police or PETA wackos or just the painfully trendy, the anti-meat lobby has put carnivores on the defensive -- which is peculiar, as we're pretty sure God didn't give us incisors to rip through a wad of arugula.
In fact, we're sure of it. We've seen God twice, once in the eerie haze of a near-death experience, and once at Fuddruckers.
So let's just say we're predisposed to like any advertising with the tagline "Go, Meat!" And, sure enough, the campaign for Sara Lee's Hillshire Farm, from TBWA/Chiat/Day, Playa del Rey, Calif., is a hoot. So far consisting of five TV spots and a cute, albeit not especially robust, website (gomeat.com), the campaign aims to get us not merely hungering but rooting for the undercow, underturkey and underhog.
In various situations, Hillshire Farm consumers find their food preparation or consumption mysteriously interrupted by the sounds of unseen cheerleaders validating the characters' dining choices.
In the best of the lot, a young couple is in the backyard grilling hot links when, from nowhere, they hear a chorus of: "When I say 'Hillshire,' you say 'Farm.'" Startled, they look around to see where the chant is coming from, but the unseen voices just keep coming: 'Hillshire'...'Farm'...'Hillshire'... 'Farm.'"
Weirdly, the somewhat mousy woman tries grill-tonging the links in time to the cheer, but she's out of rhythm, forcing the invisible voices into some awkward cheer-stuttering. "'Hi ... Hill ... Hillshire ...'" -- whereupon the guy finally chimes in ... "Farm?"
This is all funny on several levels, not the least of which how the grillers are first nonplussed then swept up in the barbecue supernatural. The highlight is the woman's last line, more chuckled than spoken: "Oh, wow."
Cheering the actress
No, it doesn't sound like much on paper. But if you believe as we do that the best single moment in "Pulp Fiction" was Rosanna Arquette looking at Uma Thurman with an adrenaline syringe jammed in her heart and saying, "That was (expletive deleted) trippy," then you will want to cheer for this actress yourself.
Then we hear the cheerleaders again, and, take our word for it, it's just funny and memorable to hear someone chanting, "Go Meat!"
Two other spots expressly deal with the problem of protein incorrectness by promoting Hillshire Farm Entrée Salads, which are spiked with chunks of dead animal. One features two women at lunch who likewise get cheered from who knows where. This vignette is key to the strategy, which is to champion cold cuts and bratwurst not just for guys but for all homo sapiens -- especially the ones who do most of the shopping. Supposedly, the cheerleading will resonate with women.
Inside Hillshire products
Of this we are a bit dubious. The resonance here is rooted entirely in silliness. But, for all its charm, that may not be sufficient. The giant summer sausage in the room is the tenuous relationship between much of the Hillshire Farm line and actual, you know, meat. Indeed, the items pictured in the spots all look pretty gross, suggesting a less clever, but more accurate tagline:
"Go Meat and Various Byproducts Plus God Knows What!"
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Marketer: Sara Lee's Hillshire Farm
Agency: TBWA/Chiat/Day, Playa del Rey, Calif.