Every now and then an ad campaign comes along that burns itself into our cultural consciousness. Remember “Where's the Beef,” the late Clara Peller's memorable battle cry for Wendy's? How about, “It's the Real Thing?” Coca Cola slogans have come and gone, but that one seems to linger on no matter what the company is currently pushing. (“Life Begins Here,” in case you were wondering.)
Personally, I think McDonald's really screwed the pooch when they traded in such memorable catchphrases as “You Deserve a Break Today” and “We Love to See You Smile” for the lame and insipid “I'm Lovin' It.” Maybe it's catchy and trendy to the German ad agency that came up with it, but I've been hatin' it ever since it was introduced in 2003.
So what on earth is the National Pork Board thinking? Their longstanding mantra “The Other White Meat” is so ingrained in our collective national psyche that it has transcended being a mere advertising slogan. It's a part of who we are, for Pete's sake! It's a universal catchphrase, an icon, a punch line to numerous jokes. Other people have mercilessly ripped it off. Wine growers have employed it (“The Other White Wine.”) An online novelty store marketed mythical unicorn meat as “The Other White Meat” – until the Pork Board's lawyers stepped in. An allegedly musical composition entitled “The Other White Meat” has been produced by someone called Immortal Technique. If you're a Wowhead, an aficionado of “World of Warcraft,” you'll recognize Helboar as “The Other White Meat.” How about “Haggis: The Other White Meat?” Yep, it's out there. If you live in parts of Florida, “The Other White Meat” means alligator. One way or the other, the idiom is absolutely universal.
Created by the advertising agency Bozell, Jacobs, Kenyon & Eckhardt in 1987, “Pork: The Other White Meat” is easily the most effective – and ripped off – ad campaign ever devised. Intended to pitch pork as a healthy white meat alternative to chicken, the slogan initially boosted pork sales by an astonishing 20 percent.
But, alas, the venerable phrase has become a victim of its own success. People are eating pork. About 50 pounds per person per year, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But even though sales are good, they're stagnant. Beef consumption is down, chicken consumption is up, and pork consumption is pretty much flat. So the Pork People want to reach out to the pork eaters among us to get us to eat more pork. They feel that we need to be inspired to be more creative in our use of “The Other White Meat.”
So, after twenty five phenomenally successful years, the Pork Board is retiring “Pork: The Other White Meat” in favor of ….. get ready for this ….. “Pork: Be Inspired.”
Have you noticed that “inspired” and “insipid” are really, really close? “Be Inspired?” Come on!
According to marketing V.P. Ceci Snyder, "We want to increase pork sales by 10 percent by 2014. To do that, we needed to make a stronger connection, a more emotional connection to our product."
And “Be Inspired” is going to do that in what way?
Believe me, the amount of bacon, ham, prosciutto, pancetta, and other porky products consumed around my place are sufficient to make pigs react to me like chickens react to The Colonel, okay? I don't know that I'd call it an “emotional connection,” but I'm definitely fond of pig parts. I'm already a part of what Gail Carter, a partner at Schafer Condon Carter, the Chicago-based brain trust behind the new campaign, refers to as the target audience. I am one of the 82 million Americans already sold on pork. Comparing it to chicken – or anything else – is preaching to the choir. Carter believes, therefore, that she knows "who the target is and how to talk to them in more relevant terms."
And “Be Inspired” is supposed to be relevant, right? O-o-o-kay, fine. Whatever you say, Gail. I'm lovin' it! NOT!
Oh, the Pork Board isn't going to completely abandon the Belle of the Ball that they have courted for more than a quarter-century. No, the old slogan will remain on the Board's website and on apparel sold by the Board. (Surely you've got your “The Other White Meat” T-shirt.) But otherwise, an $11 million roll out is designed to obliterate any and all traces of the phrase that has elevated pork from the cheap, fatty, unhealthy product it was long perceived to be to its current position in the food chain.
And Ms. Carter believes her silly, simpering, soulless, slogan is going to help catapult pork to new heights because it will make us all feel emotionally attached to our pork chops. It will strengthen our bond with our Boston Butt. We'll hold our hams high and we'll do more relevant things with our spare ribs. We'll “Be Inspired” to gird our pork loins and shoulder our picnics without regard to previous comparisons with that “other white meat” we are now being instructed to wipe from our memories.
I think they were smokin' something besides bacon there at Pork Central in Des Moines. I mean, how else do you explain the fact that fifteen otherwise sane people sat around a conference table and got all goose-bumpy when some vacuous chick from Chicago hit them with “Be Inspired” and then held out her hand for eleven million bucks? Talk about buying a pig in a poke!
Cut your losses, Pork Board, and let this boondoggle quietly die before you look any stupider than you already do. Leave well enough alone and dance with the one what brung ya.
I like “The Other White Meat” and I'll never “Be Inspired” by anything else.