Friday, February 13, 2015

What the Similac AD “Hood” tells us

Formula milk manufacturer Similac recently scored a big hit with a controversial ad, “the Hood.” While some consider it’s pretty good and honestothers find it insulting and misleading. 


If you ask me, I’d say it is a piece of clever formula propaganda that successfully changes the conversation from “breastfeeding is the best” to “all choices are equal.” At the end of the ad, of course, it sends a sentimental message “no matter what our beliefs, we are parents first. Welcome to the sisterhood of motherhood.”

This kind of slick commercial that tugs at the heartstrings has become a common practice among those who are trying to sell “not that good” stuff. For example, we all know that coke is not that good for our health, so the coke ads no longer tell us how much sugar they reduced in the drink but rather how much joy the sugar-loaded drink brings your children. By so doing, the conversation will be about how to simply please your kids rather than how to build a healthy and happy eating environment for them.

It is exactly what’s going on here. By sending out that schmaltzy message, the conversation will be about accepting all choices, not what needs to be changed in order to make breastfeeding a more viable option. Sentimental videos go viral, and that’s what companies like Similac want.

But I found that I, myself, cannot be taken in by this. First and foremost, I don’t appreciate how Similac exploiting the stereotypes of “mothers at war”. At the beginning of the ad, we see a group or career moms on their mobile phones, rich moms pushing their luxury strollers, yoga moms wearing their baby slings, boastful nursing moms, and bottle-feeding moms in a park. They are all shouting very stupid and spiteful things to one another. In the next minute, the mummies are ready to eat one another alive. And they might as well do that if there wasn’t a runaway stroller that stopped them.

I’m amused by the scene. Do we mothers really hate other moms who chose to feed their babies differently? I once breastfed in a park, sitting next to a bottle-feeding mom who then told me how she quit breastfeeding because her supervisor gave her a hard time at work for pumping and she still feel bad about quitting. I expressed my sympathy and told her that I think her boss was a jerk and it was not her fault. And that’s exactly what I think—we should attack those factors that make breastfeeding so hard, not the mothers who choose to formula feed. This is what a real mother think and talk in real life. But in a Similac ad, the mother would act like a bitch and yell “some mothers are too lazy to breastfeed.”

The “mothers at war” thing is a juicy tale that created by the media three decades ago originally of working moms and stay-at-home moms dissing each other. The media construct sells newspapers, magazines, TV shows, and now formula milk.

Mothers do compete with one another over many things, I don’t deny that. But without media like this Similac ad that constantly telling us that “this is how you must feel, you hate other mothers,” things would not be that awful. Plus, competition and hate are two very different things.

According to the company, the ad is all about “encouragement, not judgement.” However I found exactly the opposite—by portraying mothers as a group of gruesome, shrill Momzillas, the ad is not encouraging at all but actually very judgmental.

And I think this is the message that Similac should get, “Stop pitting mothers against each other in order to sell formula milk!”

My LO and his buddy. It doesn't matter one of them is being breastfed and the
other one is being formula fed, they are still buddies--so are their mommies.
This is an original post for San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition's Blog by To-wen Tseng. 

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