This week, Eater staff writer Jenny Zhang wrote a year-end retrospective titled “Food Brands Went Fully Off the Rails in 2019—and Profited From It.” In it, she details some of the more bizarre tactics undertaken by brands to convince us that they are not only our friends, but that each one is our messiest, prank-happiest, most drama-seeking BFF who, sure, might be a little nutty sometimes, but you just can’t help but love them. That type of friend.
This approach to social media marketing has never quite worked for me, mostly because it relies on a continual and unending supply of incredulity from its audience. “They did what?” these brands hope we ask our phone screens aloud, hand over mouth. “No way did they make a joke about being horny. No way.”
But while this sort of social media engagement requires our boundless ability to be shocked or delighted that a given brand went there, ultimately, it’s not really all that unexpected that brands would compete for customers’ attention with whatever arrows are in their quiver—in this case, good old-fashioned shock value. Campbell’s Chunky cracked a half-decent joke, but is looking us dead in the eye as it does so, gauging our reaction.
I’m certainly not saying there aren’t ads that I find funny, or ones that at least get begrudging points for taking weird chances based on 30-year-old film references. But the way that brands capitalize on the immediacy of Twitter is what makes it all feel a little too uncanny, a little too close for comfort. A little too....thirsty.
How do you feel about your soup making sex jokes?