Sunday, August 1, 2010

Wendy's: Real? Not Really.

I don't watch TV very often. I don't own one. I owned one for a while when I lived in the states, but it sat like a boat anchor on my bedroom table or on a cabinet in my living room and never had cable juice coursing through its veins until two momentous occasions: 9/11 and the arrival of a new boyfriend. Both occasions temporarily got me all riled up, but now, not so much.

However, to maintain my sense of humor while sorting through the moldy cheese, rotten vegetables, wormy meat scraps and bloated fish guts of the vast rotting wasteland of American politics (Wow, even I'm impressed by that sentence), I need to watch Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Somehow, it gives me hope that those two brilliant guys (and their brilliant writers) can still manage to make jokes - 4 days a week! - about the compost bin of American media and the mostly-pasty-white-guy world of America's corporate-owned politics.

I also like to watch Rachel Maddow. She's not as funny, but she's so smart, like genius smart, that she makes me proud to be a woman.

But, let's get back to America being corporate-owned. I'm including our illustrious media in this sweeping but true generalization, of course. So, for me living in France, that means I'm blocked from watching American TV shows online. The Comedy Central mouthpieces say it's because they don't have advertising rights in my country. Because, ya know, advertisers really dictate where these independent (hahaha!) television companies can show their ads, er, I mean, independent TV shows.

But, I'm a geek. So I found a way around those bastards. I installed an add-on for Firefox that makes me look like I live in Ohio (or maybe Wasilla, right on Sarah Palin's Russia-gazing porch). It's called "X-Forwarded-For Spoofer" or spoofing, for short. This online anarchy allows me to watch the full episodes of Stewart and Colbert, instead of having to watch tiny, edited-down segments.

It also means that now, like all patriotic American consumers, I also have to watch the ads. So, I guess there's no way to get around those bastards after all. But at least I can catch up on  the audacity of corporate propaganda and actually be hip to the latest Old Spice mania. Old Spice. The cologne that Jim Gardner, my first-ever date, bathed in prior to donning his Inspector Clouseau trench coat, climbing into the back seat of his dad's Mercury, directing his dad to my house, where he didn't have to face my mother or father, but just our babysitter, Mrs. Schick. From there, his dad dropped us off at the movies, where Jim yawned in order to put his arm around me and then, before the credits rolled, escorted me out back behind the theatre so he could steal one fat, lolling tongue kiss. All I remember is how giant his tongue was and how disgusting his perfume.

But, with the power of clever and humorous advertising with a deep-voiced handsome dude named Isaiah Mustafa, Old Spice is having the revival of its life. It still smells like crap, though.

Meanwhile, Wendy's - a giant, global, fast-food restaurant - has a brand spanking new campaign with the tag line: You know when it's real. And yet again: You can't fake real.

Oh, yes you can.

Having written advertising copy most of my career, I went to Wendy's's (I couldn't resist making fun of the name they came up with that will be so "unique" in it's pain-in-the-assness, that it will surely be "memorable") website and recognized the time-honored technique: use words and phrases that suggest or imply what you want consumers to believe about your product, but never actually say anything that might be construed as a lie. Or, use all the emotional keywords you can find, in sentences that seem like they mean something, but actually mean nothing.

After all, in a country where fake is the norm, why not start an ad campaign trashing fake and implying that you, alone in the wilderness of fakedom, are the only one who is real. Brilliant. Except for the fact that Wendy's food is STILL not real. But, why dither with the details?

Because, I enjoy dithering. And because the very same people who believe Wendy's's's and other corporate bullshit also believe political propaganda and vote for snotty little ignoramuses like George W. Bush.

So, here's the run-down...

So, do they slaughter the cows behind each restaurant? Or do they contract with a slaughter house in each city where there's a Wendy's? Or, do they fly freshly slaughtered beef to each city every morning? And what do the cows eat, may I ask? Are they still injected with growth hormones? Are they force-fed and kept in pens, never to wander or graze upon the great plains of our nation? Do they eat pesticide-laden grain?

Who gives a damn if they freeze their beef if it's poison to begin with? They're just making all this shit up. People will start saying to their friends, while discussing which fast-food joint they want to visit to assuage their hangover pangs or stoner munchies, "You know, Wendy's beef is never frozen!" Like this is a startling, undeniable, life-changing fact, along the same lines as, "George Bush made America safe."

And what does "cut, chopped and prepared with the same dedication to quality" actually mean? Well, nothing. How do you chop with quality in mind? I suppose avoiding the addition of your fingertips into the tomato bits is a start. But other than that, I can't imagine. And the fact that another mega-corporation, Heinz, is the exclusive maker of Wendy's's's ketchup means what, exactly? Why is that a benefit to me? If the mother of the Wendy's day manager made the ketchup, I'd probably go there just to try it. But some big-ass corporation making the ketchup is supposed to be a selling point?

And of course, there's chicken.

I guess I should be happy to know that their chicken isn't mystery meat. But the only time that "finest quality meats" is true is when the chickens are pesticide-free, hormone-free and free-range. Oh, and notice that they don't say anything about whether their chicken is as unfrozen as their beef. And what about us poor sods who like dark meat? Even their "wings" are made from breasts. Oh, I forgot! It's America, where white is right and brown should be drowned in the Rio Grande before it can sneak across the border.

But then, there are the apples. Just say this out loud a few times and try and think about what it means: Always-In-Season Fruit. Are they saying that they only serve fruit when it's in season? No, because the apple-pecan chicken salad is on the menu year-round. They're saying that their red and green apples are "rotated seasonally." What does that mean? Are they trying to say that they use green apples when they are in season and red ones when they are in season? I can only guess that since apple season (no matter what the color) is in the Fall, that they either pick the apples and store them and use them or they buy apples from other parts of the world when they are in season there. But again, they aren't sayin' that the apples are pesticide-free, so, in-season, no matter how they slice it, is a moot point.

I DID notice that Wendy's's website says that they offer Marzetti's all-natural salad dressings but they didn't say "organic" so I'm not sure they are actually using Marzetti's line of certified organic dressings, or not. At this point, I don't trust Wendy's's's. But, I really should. After all...

The fact that a giant chain of fast-food restaurants can spend a fortune to purposely design an ad campaign that pretends they are not selling factory-raised and factory-processed animals, fruits and vegetables and that this Big Lie goes unchallenged in the media and in the minds of most American consumers, is a testament to the fact that corporate marketers and Madison Avenue advertising agencies believe that American consumers are ignorant sheep.

They're laughing at us sheep (Baaahhh!), all the way to the bank.