There is factual truth, for example, that can conflict with human truth. And then there is moral truth, which has a tendency to conflict with the interests of the advertiser.
This isn't some sort of philosophical exercise we're speaking of. It's the Special K account.
Six or seven years back, Kellogg, via Leo Burnett Co., Chicago, was touting the benefits of a low-cal Special K diet with a series of impossibly tiny women, preening in front of their mirrors in little size 2 cocktail dresses, congratulating themselves for their fantastic figures. The implication: Special K got them there.
Of course, Special K didn't get them there. Freakish genes and endless Jazzercise and probably starvation diets got them there, but the audience of less shapely women was invited to buy the Big Implicit Lie. Factual truth was clearly unserved.
But wait. Nobody in the female target audience really buys that Big Lie. Overcome with vanity and body obsession, however, they do eagerly participate in it-just as they participate in the open fraud that are the cosmetics and weight-loss industries. That is human truth, and it's ripe pickings.
That's why Burnett's award-winning successor campaign-which put the language of body obsession into the mouths of men in order to reveal its emptiness and irrationality-didn't sell any Special K. Moral truth feels good, but what do you do when it kills your brand?
Well, maybe the brand has, at last, found a way to reconcile the conflicts. A charming new Burnett spot for Special K Red Berries gets us in the adult female mind-in this case, the stream-of-consciousness interior monologue of a woman waiting for a bus. She's in her mid-to-late 30s, petite, but not skinny, a little puffy but in no way obese, just a normally shaped woman on her way to work.
And she's obsessing.
"If manufacturers could get that they could cut it to be a size 12 but they should just put a size 6 label on it, they'd sell so many more. ... All right, where is this bus. I cannot believe I missed the bus. ... I'm not stopping at the donut shop anymore. I mean, that's ridiculous. I'll go straight to the bakery. They're open earl...[a bike messenger goes by, in Spandex cycling pants]... oh, hi!, Mr. Man-With-the-Buns and the perfect calves! I could have calves like that. I have a treadmill ... somewhere. ..."
Then a title card: "Don't be so hard on yourself." Then the announcer: "Sweet strawberries, crunchy flakes, just 110 calories. Special K Red Berries. Help yourself!"
Help yourself, indeed. The perfect double entendre ends a spot that has its Special K and eats it, too. It acknowledges body guilt (human truth), provides a modest contribution to normal-looking women in their unwinnable battle against impossible standards (factual truth), but declines to trot out the unattainable ideal (moral truth).
It also makes the product look scrumptious- which, judging from this line extension's early success, is true, too.
Leo Burnett USA
Ad Review Rating: 3.5 stars