Food in the Media: Research (Creative Artefact 1)

One of the modules that we have been introduced to is 360mc Research and Development. This focuses on experimentation and reflection, developing skills throughout and helping to prepare for FMP work into the new year. Initially, for CW1 we have three artefacts to create over a 6 week period that centre around a particular topic or theme. The first is ‘Food’, identifying how it can impact our lives, what memories we associate with food and how it can be represented in the media.

I have first spent some time researching food in the media world and thinking specifically of my own experiences as well as what I have seen out there. If we look at the food industry as just a consumer, we can be blinded to how much it affects the world we live in. There are so many factors to consider, the source of the food, how it gets to our cupboards, the people who grow and produce it.

Thinking about what I have personally seen of food in the media, generally relates to advertising on television and online. They are usually very positive, showing the specific food product in the best light possible. A lot of advertisements also relate the food to certain values that many of us pertain to have. They can range from family values, relationships to thoughts on life and social culture. Many are often produced in line with certain world events or trends at the time.

I have spent time looking at two Hovis television adverts. One is from 1973 and is directed by Sir Ridley Scott who at the time maybe wasn’t so well known as he is today. The other is from 2008 and worked as a promotional tool in the companies rebranding campaign. The first advert from 1973 shows a young bakers boy pushing his bike up a rather steep hill. There is a narration that talks about the boys journey in a very emotive fashion. It is presented in a very family like-minded way, people at the time could relate to such a fashion and appreciate the message. The idea of such an advertisement is to present the product to families, generally the target audience in a way that is warm, friendly and means something. It is simple but delivers the message well.

The second advertisement from 2008 makes homage to the previous which in 1973 which did become memorable over time. It tells more of a story this time, briefly accounting Britain’s 122 years of history in 122 seconds since Hovis had first been established. It was shot in Liverpool on a far larger scale with over 750 extras and a bigger team to facilitate the production. This may seem strange to go to such lengths for a bread company but it just shows how the food industry uses the media world to showcase their product. The advert delivers the same warm message as the previous one did 35 years previously. It has the same strap-line at the end “As good today as it’s always been”. We are a proud nation through our history, its what defines us. Therefore in line with the companies relaunch campaign, they decided to highlight some of the key events over the last 122 years that Hovis have been going. Food works in line with brands to deliver messages to people regarding the type of food that it is. The companies values are translated as well through these mini stories in the advertisements. These two are interesting as they are different in scale and quality but the format and message are identical even with 35 years apart.

It is clear that food has a huge presence on our television and computer screens, encouraging us to buy certain products based on well known brands. The other side of food comes behind the scenes, the growing and preparation and in quite a lot of cases, the politics of food. In many cases, none of us know the true origin of our food and who actually put it together or grew the raw ingredients that went into the meal we are consuming. A documentary I recently watched entitled ‘Food Chains’ focuses on the exploitation of farm labour in the United States of America and how supermarkets make tremendous gains whilst no attention is paid to this continuing issue. “Over the past 3 decades they have drained revenue from their supply chain leaving farmworkers in poverty and forced to work under subhuman conditions.” (Food Chains Film, 2014) The website mentions more on the themes of the documentary, discussing the history of such exploitation that has gone on in many countries throughout the world. It’s interesting to see this situation occurring not just in a third world country which has been the case multiple times in the past. In recent times a big accusation fell towards Starbucks, stating that the multi-national corporation was exploiting its Ethiopian coffee bean farmers. Food can be a way of life literally for certain people and this has been exploited at varying levels but with the developments in media and technology over the last few decades, we are able to document and expose such crimes.

There are positives and negatives with the growing presence of food and the associated brands in the media world. I have touched on the positives of sharing certain family values and targeting the consumer in a fair manner. The use of media has provided an opportunity for farmers to be heard and have a voice, ending a lot of exploitation from bigger companies. A negative area that I have experienced has come in false advertising that shows a certain product in a positive light when it is in fact very unhealthy and bad for you. McDonalds advertising campaigns have been varied throughout the years but there is one that stood out.

Fairly recently, McDonalds put out a campaign where you could ask questions to an interactive board in multiple locations and they would apparently be answered online or through some other medium. There were also some ‘independent’ investigations into how the food is sourced and prepared. The issue here was that one of the investigations was backed by McDonalds themselves?? McDonalds always seem to be trying to convince everyone of the quality of their beef and assure people that certain allegations are false. It’s difficult to trust such investigations when they are funded by McDonalds?? Due to the size of the McDonalds coporation, it feels at times like they can do whatever they like. John Oliver present a comedic look at this issue but does raise some interesting points about public opinion on McDonalds and how they treat their employees.

An advertisement I saw that really confused me was this one below. It shows a number of short clips of families and friends enjoying themselves, laughing together. The narration is motivated, supporting the content on screen. It ends with the characters in McDonalds and in no way makes any sense to what the corporation really is or what the message of the advert is intending. Serving extremely unhealthy food from a ‘brand’ that cares more about money and expansion than it does quality. I feel that the growth of these cinematic style advertisements has become so extreme that any brand can give it a go and the true message can be lost at times. It also becomes quite subversive, tricking people into subconsciously favouring towards the brand based on the nicely shot 2 minute video they’ve just noticed.

The food industry will always be developing and growing as its a fundamental part of life and with the constant changes in the media world, it is clear that the companies out there will find new ways to use this to their advantage and further advertise their product in yet another fashion.

On a more personal level, I have memories associated with food that shy away from the trends, away from the compulsive brands. Simple food from when I was young, food my dad would make me for little to no money at all. I will discuss this in another blog post and how my first artefact will explain my memory of food, referencing the family values showcased in the Hovis videos and what it meant to me at the time.

Bibliography:

  • FOOD CHAINS FILM (2014) Food Chains [Online] Available from: http://www.foodchainsfilm.com. [Accessed: 12th October 2016]
  • HBO (2014) John Oliver – McDonald’s Ad Campaign [Online Video] 20th October 2014. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNmJcWP7R08. [Accessed: 12th October 2016]
  • LEDWIDGE, R. (2008) Go On Lad [Online Video] 12th September 2008. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4tFzuFGUOI. [Accessed: 12th October 2016]
  • MCDONALDS (2016) good times all the time | Brand | TV Ad |McDonald’s UK [Online Video] 20th May 2016. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VEjFTmt-etA. [Accessed: 12th October 2016]
  • SCOTT, R. (1973) Hovis ‘Bike’ advert [Online Video] 30th June 2007. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Mq59ykPnAE [Accessed: 12th October 2016]
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