There used to be an ad that ran in the sixties for Dairy Milk, that featured Cilla Black extolling the healthy virtues of the product. The thinking ran that, with a glass and a half of milk in every pound, your kids will grow up with calcium-enriched healthy bones. That was very important, as a strong frame was needed to hoist up the several layers of blubber it would end up encased in.
You would think that even in these health-conscious times, no-one would have the nerve to make such claims on the telly any more. No-one, unfortunately, banked on Nutella. Nutella is perhaps the most important gift that Italy has given the world, being the sweet treat that is largely excusable to eat at breakfast. But it takes a lot of a cheek to suggest it is part of a ‘balanced breakfast’. The product’s main ingredients are sugar and oil, and a jar of the stuff is a third fat. All those hazelnuts tumbling out of the jar you see on telly? They constitute 13% of what the child is shoving in their breakfast holes.
The ad for Nutella seems acutely aware of this from the off, given how determined they are not to let on. Instead, there seems to be a lot of disorientation techniques going on to confuse us (how very ‘Guantanamo’). The ad opens with about eight kitchens stacked up in a house-sized building. The colours are a shade too vivid and carefully colliding, like a purposeful headache. Nothing quite makes sense. It’s all a bit European (remember: this was the same company that produced the bumbling, badly-dubbed Kinder Happy Hippo), although at the same time it feels like it’s rather British.
Amidst this sugar-induced headache is a mother suggestively thrusting her hips in a domestic-goddess-meets-Asda-George style, while tapping her mouth with a knife (you would think that health and safety might have stepped in at this point, but they probably passed out when they noticed that the two-storey building didn’t have any walls or stairs). ‘Hmmmm’, you can effectively see speech-bubbled above her head, ‘what you feed the kids?’ Didn’t you know, mother? Each jar of Nutella has over six hazelnuts in it! Feed that to your child and it’ll get a vital dose of minerals. And a diabetic coma. But focus on the minerals.
How exactly do Nutella get away with suggesting they’re a healthy option? It’s all in the word ‘balanced’. When I was a kid, breakfast was toast OR cereal. In Nutella world, you get both. If Nutella is balanced with the cereal, what the heck is the cereal made of? Wheatgrass flakes? Gillian McKeith Nuggets? Anti-Sugar-O’s? It’s akin to suggesting that a bout of violent diarrhoea is healthy when balanced with a subsequent dose of lost electrolytes.
It also seems fundamentally daft on behalf of the big N. Chocolate for breakfast is the Forbidden Other that all children lust after. Let them have it and they won’t bulk-buy in excitement when they get to do their own shopping. Keep the crazy kitchens if you must, but at least show a dozen obese kids, and a river of molten fat pouring out of the big brown jar. That’ll get them interested again.