Real Food Commercials

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Oct 10, 2011    •    548 Views

The place is a Manhattan film studio. The star could be a donut, ice cream, or a chicken nugget. For a spaghetti sauce shoot, the director says, “Lights. Roll. Action. Drip.”

Described in this NY Times article, tabletop directing is a “micro-niche” segment of the advertising world. With Applebee’s, Papa John’s and McDonald’s the typical clients, the dollars for these TV commercials are massive.

And so too are the challenges. Ice cream melts under hot lights and spaghetti is slippery. Showing the steam from hot soup can be as tough as differentiating a donut from everyone else’s.

To create a new reality, the tabletop director replaces the ice cream with lard and glues the spaghetti to the fork. For piping hot soup, he uses steam-making machines while a mechanized food-tosser enables a donut to cascade through a spray of sugar. As a result, the food looks more authentic and appealing.

The Economic Lesson

 Is tabletop directing a wonderful example of the market’s creativity or a truth-in-advertising issue? Here, again, we have a tension between the freedom of the marketplace and regulation.

You might enjoy looking at this story about Campbell’s Soup, marbles, and a group of law students that called themselves Students Opposed to Unfair Practices.

An Economic Question: To make food look real and attractive in commercials, to what extent should ad people be able to modify the product?

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