the cheetos kerfuffle & bob garfield

Apparently, there is a budding controversy about the Cheetos campaign by Goodby, Silverstein + PartnersBob Garfield calls it irresponsible and there is even a thread at AOL that discusses just how bad a message it sends.

All of this is really weird because the Cheetos spots have been running for months now. I think that Garfield needed to get his readership up and, just how George Parker posts about Draft/FCB when he needs a boost, Garfield just needs to say something controversial.

Even though the controversy, if real, would have started in the spring.

At any rate, the creative is certainly sub-par:

I know that most kids’ parents don’t really want them snacking on Cheetos, but it’s hardly the choice that sticks it to the man. Just seems a real reach for the brand…and kinda mean-spirited and not that fun…not to mention the fact that a corporate CPG brand is the last place kids will go to for authentic counter-culture direction.

But socially irresponsible? And irresponsible enough that Senor Garfield is commenting on Adverganza about it?

Let’s break this down.

From Bob’s AdAge column: “RAoC stands for “Random Acts of Cheetos,” and the idea is to recruit users to perpetrate Cheetos-centric pranks against those who deserve comeuppance — like tossing a handful in somebody’s dryer load of whites at the Laundromat. Ha ha!”

You’re right, this is kind of a hacky joke…but let’s be honest and realize that kids in the target watch MTV and like Ben Stiller and aren’t actually known for their grasp of subtlety and dislike of slapstick.

One point to Goodby for speaking the target’s language.

As the (unbelievably amateurish) 20-something orangeunderground.com presenter says, pointing to an outsize Cheeto in a glass case, “The third rule of RAoC is to stick it to The Man, preferably with one of these.”

Get it? Alienated teenagers and young men chafe against authority. So frustrated and resentful are they about their humiliating powerlessness, they tend to lash out — or at least fantasize about lashing out — at the powers that be.

Again, I don’t think that the strategy or creative are particularly breakthrough but, knowing that you are going to call both a threat to the well being of the nation I am underwhelmed so far.

One point to Garfield for boring me to the point that I might accidentally agree with him before nodding off.

That would be mainly parents, teachers, principals and bosses, but anyone and anything will do — which explains the tens of thousands of mailboxes destroyed each year by baseball bats, with a trail of Mike’s Hard Lemonade bottles littered along the curb.

The perpetrators don’t necessarily harbor animus toward the U.S. Postal Service.

They just harbor animus in general.

Fact: This is already happening.

Fact: This has nothing to do with Cheetos and their new campaign.

Fact: This article is already annoyingly pulling what I call the “Bob Garfield Special” wherein Bob desperately scrambles to associate unrelated events, usually bad, with a brand and its new campaign, usually that he doesn’t like, even though the relationship is tangental and best and causal only if you are Bob Garfield and don’t bother to realize things like “kids are already destructive assholes and have been forever and, since they already do this stuff maybe a recently launched ad campaign is not the cause.”

Adolescent angst. This is powerful psychology and therefore fertile ground for someone wishing to cultivate that demographic. Ask any tattoo artist or death-metal performer or drug dealer or anyone else in the rebellion industry.

So…because adolescent angst plays a part in kids liking death metal and drugs as well as in liking Cheetos (and staying up too late and not doing their homework and driving too fast), apparently each of the the things kids with adolescent angst like are the same. You heard it here, folks, Bob Garfield just granted equivalence to Cheetos, staying up late and doing drugs.

This is intellectually lazy…this is the Bob Garfield Special.

But here’s a question: What should we think when a leading national advertiser borrows a marketing strategy from the drug trade?

Hmm, you mean like selling through a broker which is what most mid-sized CPG companies do?

Or do you mean decentralized distribution which is how Wal*Mart transformed logistics and basically did away with warehouses?

Maybe aggressive sampling efforts? Discounts when you buy in bulk?

What should we think?

Here’s an answer: It’s cynical and disgusting

And very profitable, based on the examples I gave at least.

There is another word for Random Acts of Cheetos: vandalism. The Cheetos Underground explicitly incites its shadowy network of crap eaters not only to perpetrate mischief but to document their petty crimes on video for the Cheetos website.

If one thinks that advertising drives people to do exactly what the ads say and that your basic over-the-top, take the situation to the extreme advertising will make people do what it says then yes, this is disgraceful.

If, however, you understand that people do not exactly what advertising says and that the brand positioning and the spots and purposely ridiculous then it’s quite a bit less than disgraceful.

Unless, of course, you want to manufacture a controversy so people read your column.

[Bob describes the spots, both of which are months old and both of which show people playing “pranks” on other people…neither are that funny mainly because the pranks aren’t original and aren’t good clean fun]

Can you see how this is all destined to lead to litigation? Or worse? Can you see how ethically bankrupt it is — Frito-Lay in the role of Ken Lay?

Another Bob Garfield Special! By throwing in the name of an ethical boogeyman Bob totally doesn’t have to make an actual argument because there is connection between the name of Cheetos’ parent company and Enron guy Ken Lay! Lock ’em up because THAT is the final piece of evidence needed for indictment.

Take THAT bad guys! There’s a new sheriff in town.

…this campaign is mean-spirited and reckless and generally contemptible.

It’s the whole reckles and bad for society thing that I don’t really get…it’s mean-sprited, yes, but is hardly going to result in a wave of bad behavior by minors. Seriously, Bob, it’s not. You can unlock your door, put the safety on your shotgun and sleep soundly tonight. Things will be okay.

It’s bad advertising, not the death of Western civilization (even though you like totally made the connection with Ken Lay – BOOYAH!).

I would like to write columns like Senor Bob…the trick is to make some bombastic claim about how this campaign is totally awful and damaging to all of humanity and then not back it up and conclude weakly before veering off into…

You like crunchy snacks and want to join a real Orange Underground? Sweet. Boycott Cheetos and eat carrots.

Because THAT is the voice of rebellion.

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One response to “the cheetos kerfuffle & bob garfield

  1. Honestly, I really like this creative. Brining the Cheeto’s character to life in a non-comical way I think hits the target audience just right.

    People are looking at this too deep. It’s a good commercial, not the fucking makings of a revolution amongst the youth of America. It doesn’t pat you on the head, gives you a laugh, and just shows that cheesy fingers aren’t a bad thing.

    Seriously — Stop reading into it. In my opinion, it’s a well developed, well shot, well directed campaign.

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