Garfield's Ad Review: Hormel serves up deliciously misguided series of bad ads

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"So I'm reading In Style..." says the voice on the phone, which we recognize immediately. It belongs to our daughter, Allie, who typically does not open a phone conversation with narrative. She usually opens with "Hi, Daddy." Then (unnecessarily, because we're well acquainted with the child), "It's Allie." But something has put a bee in her bonnet.

"...and there's this ad...":

Which she goes on to accurately describe. It's a two-page spread with a violet/gray background and the image of a slim, female yoga practitioner in a hunched-forward, eyes-closed, fingertips-on-the-temples permutation of the lotus position.

The model's expression is somewhere between total concentration and total serenity. Either way, the mundane issues of the real world seem to be far away, because the woman is meditating her ass off.

The headline, in nice, feminine italics: "Stress-free day."

"It's a day to clear your mind," the copy says. "A day to free your soul. And a day for...."

Well, guess. Guess what it's a day for, what product or service is the quintessence of, or occasion for, or path to transcendental bliss. Come on, guess.

No, sorry, it's not Celestial Seasonings herbal tea.

No, not Elizabeth Arden's Red Door spa.

No, not Zoloft.

The gateway to freedom of the soul, according to this ad from BBDO, Minneapolis, is...

... "Hormel Always Tender honey mustard pork loin filet."

No joke. Which explains why our 17-year-old is cackling on the telephone, because even though Allie is a teenager, and therefore stupid, she grasps the concept of incongruity. She reads In Style now, but Highlights served her well. She knows what is wrong with this picture.

Everything is wrong with this picture.

We do not doubt that in the honey-mustard pork loin category, the target audience is mainly women. Harried, working women. We further have no doubt that among that cohort, desire runs high for a peaceful, serene, worry-free day. Where the doubts come in is with how the advertised product might in any way fulfill that target's deepest-held desires.

Pork loin filet may tempt her palate. It may clog her arteries. It is highly unlikely to unburden her soul.


All well and good to understand what the consumer wants; that's called marketing. It's something else altogether to promise that consumer satisfaction you can in no way deliver. That's called idiocy. In this case, hilariously, cluelessly, cognitively dissonant idiocy. And the beauty part is, it's not a one-off. It's a series!

For a turn of the In Style page reveals a second spread, this one a driver's-eye-view of the open road, a prairie tableau en route to the desert Southwest, along the lines of a "Thelma and Louise" escapist fantasy. This headline: "Road Trip Day."

"It's a day to get lost. A day to find yourself. And a day for Hormel Fully Cooked or Microwaveable bacon."

So once again, we pick up the phone.

AD REVIEW: "Hi, Allie, it's Daddy. If you had to pick one word, only one word to describe your reaction to the Hormel ads, what would it be?"

OFFSPRING: "Um... uh... `What the [expletive deleted]?!"'

The child will be punished. And so will Hormel.

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