“Have Peach. Not Pork. A yummy way to watch carbs.”
That's the tagline under the dancing pigs in the adjoining ad. It is brought to you and millions of subscribers of USA Today, U.S. News & World Report (where I saw it) and countless other popular magazines.
The ad, copyrighted by General Mills Inc., the makers of Yoplait yogurt, got me pretty riled up. Do these people even know that pork contains “0” (that's zero!) carbs? The nerve.
How many carbs does a 6 oz. serving of the new Yoplait Ultra Peach Crème yogurt contain, you might ask?
Why, I wondered the same thing. So I hustled on down to the local grocery store and bought a carton. For the record, it contains 8 grams of carbohydrates.
Although you can hardly read it, the ad does point out that “New Yoplait Ultra” has 70% less carbs than their regular lowfat yogurt. Like that makes everything all right!
I wondered if the National Pork Board had seen the ad. A quick e-mail to Dallas Hockman (vice president of the Demand Enhancement group) and Ceci Snyder (nutrition communications director) confirmed that they had. In response, Hockman shared a letter sent to General Mills' CEO/Chairman of the Board Stephen W. Sanger, questioning their flawed motives for the ad and calling it “misleading, inaccurate and inappropriate.”
In the letter, Hockman gives the company the benefit of the doubt, recognizing the company's acknowledgement that both pork and Yoplait's new yogurt product were low-carb options. As the tagline says, General Mills considers theirs to be the “yummy” option.
I saw the ad differently. From my admittedly calloused viewpoint, I thought these guys were taking a cheap shot at pork. My loosely translated rendition of the ad was: “If you want to lose weight, choose our new, low-carb yogurt rather than pork.” The old, tired implication is that pork is fat and it will make you fat. Maybe I'm suffering from a severe case of pork paranoia. But apparently, based on calls fielded by the Pork Board staff, I wasn't the only one who saw the ad that way.
Hockman and Snyder saw the ad as a “huge compliment” to their recent marketing efforts to position pork as a low-carb option. They're probably right.
Hockman's letter goes on to admonish General Mills for the ad's implication that pork is not a tasty, low-carb option, and furthermore, points out that for those watching their carbohydrate intake, pork is a “natural, zero-carbohydrate” choice. And, he adds: “Millions of Americans turn to pork every day because of its versatility and delicious flavor.”
In the letter, Hockman requests that General Mills remedy their advertising faux pas by discontinuing all advertising and sales materials referencing pork, plus a letter of apology to the nation's pork producers, with assurances that steps have been taken to ensure such mistakes will be avoided in the future.
There are two important lessons here:
First, all pork producers must be constantly on the lookout for this type of misleading or inaccurate advertising. Popular publications such as the magazines carrying this Yoplait ad are distributed to millions of subscribers.
Second, never underestimate the need for, or the weight of, a definitive, science-based response such as the one filed by the National Pork Board on behalf of all pork producers. These are your checkoff dollars at work.