The World Cup has given me the opportunity to see far more Dutch TV than usual, and this is how I caught this advertising gem made by Dutch mayonnaise brand, Calvé. It says “if we knew where our food came from, would we make better choices?” Then continues with a rewind sequence culminating in this choice shot. I get that the brief is to tout the eggs coming from free-range chickens. The execution has farm all over it. Though I doubt the chickens actually live like this as free-range generally means there is a tiny door at the end of a massive chicken coop housing thousands of animals and a one meter square patch of dirt on the other side. Anyway, Calvé – a Unilever brand – is getting with it and making strides toward rubbing themselves in sustainability. And three cheers for getting my attention with rewinding chickens in a decidedly low interest category for me.

When talking about effectiveness of TV commercials, the debate between ‘active attention’ and ‘low attention’ processing in the brain has yet to be decided definitively. For a long time the preference has been to get the viewers active attention and thus consciously and rationally get the message into the brain, thus changing or enhancing beliefs and leading to brand preference and sales. According to the low attention processing, we gather all kinds of imagery and emotional associations with brands, which form the under-currents that sway our behaviour. The science behind the latter theory has recently grown and will soon be, in my opinion, the industry standard explanation of how TV commercials “work.”

Since I work in advertising, this spot got my active attention. And what is the result of that? In almost all instances, knowing too much about where foods made from animals come from is a sure way to get me NOT to eat the item. That may just be me. I used to work on the Burger King account and in the process read deeply on the subject of food culture and food origins. I have almost entirely stopped drinking milk – a food I attribute my height of 183cm – because of what I’ve read. That being that the sensitive mammary glands of cows aren’t milked by a farmer’s hands while he sits on a wooden stool. Cows are hooked up to milking machines for hours and udders develop sores. It’s gross, but milk has pasteurized puss in it. Yum. And more than that, milk is designed by nature to take a 40 kilo calf to 900 kilo cow in two years. Personally, that’s not my goal. But perhaps here my American is showing, or at least the hippie sub-culture I aspire to eat like. Dutch people are by and large pro-animal eaters who don’t read these kind of books and continue to drink their carne melk at lunch whether they know these facts or not.

My active involvement with this spot reminds me mayonnaise comes from animals and I should avoid it. I can no longer go on in blissful ignorance thinking that mayo comes from plastic bottles by magic.

And what of those people who can’t remember seeing this spot, thus falling into that low attention processing camp? What are they taking away from seeing the chicken’s back end? Well, the idyllic farm-loving Dutch are likely to take away positive associations of naturalness because they are unburdened by fears of factory farming and like the idea of believing their mayo came straight from a happy chicken’s rear. And that stock footage of Dad and son eating sandwiches will give Calvé an extra family friendly feel, thus securing its position in the Dutch pantry and as the go-to topper for their beloved “frites”.

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