Packaged Greek food is big. So how does Kraft advertise its Athenos brand? By featuring a bent-with-age, black-clad, disapproving Greek hag who accuses her granddaughter of dressing like a prostitute, and says that she is hell-bound for living with a man. But, on the positive side, the younger woman serves her guests Athenos-brand hummus. The hag approves of that.
Says Kraft: “While these ads may be controversial, for the most part people will see them for the light-hearted fun they are having. Any Greek Americans we ran them by thought they were really funny.”
Sorry, but “…any Greek Americans we ran them by” hardly constitutes research. Nor does it make stereotyping OK. Moreover, “light-hearted” is in the eye of the beholder. It is always easier to deem cruelty as “light-hearted” when you’re the perp and not the target.
Remember a tire company called “Gator Bait”? Probably not. It’s just as well. Its logo included an impoverished-looking African-American child seated in a tire-swing. I suspect that, at the time, that was considered light-hearted, too. I also suspect that, with careful selection, the tire company could have found African-Americans who thought it was really funny.
Meanwhile, here is what The Greek Institute, a non-profit cultural center, has to say about the Athenos spots: “These commercials are not appropriate from a Greek perspective.”
Nor, I might add, are they particularly appropriate in the way that they make a negative stereotype out of the elderly, ethnic minorities, people who dress differently, people with osteoporosis, people who grew up in a different world, and people with accents, to name a few.
I recall an unhappy advertiser lamenting not long ago, “It’s getting to the point that you can’t make fun of anyone any more.”
That’s a bad thing?