Breakfast cereals are a fascinating example of the way in which marketing operates. Children like sugar and chocolate thus, in order to persuade them which of the delicious options their parents should buy, the packaging should be brightly coloured, have freebies and provide them with entertainment during breakfast – brands like Frosties and Coco Pops do this. Adults like food with no flavour and boredom so their food should be advertised by showing Stepford Wives and bland packaging –like Alpen and Special K. Right?
Well I buck that trend! I eat my child-like cereal and I love it. I don’t have a single bowl of miserable muesli in the place; I love Weetos.
Weetos, for your background information, are a circle of wheat with a hole in the centre, coated in chocolate. I don’t like milk on my cereal so I need to eat a food item that can taste delicious even when dry. Weetos has done that job through my entire life, excluding brief flirtations into Cheerio’s and other toroidal eatables.
Yet a sad thing has come to pass. Weetos has remained generally pleasant tasting (although they have had a drop in their sugar content in 2006), but I would like to chronicle the moral decline of their advertising strategy.
I will begin with Professor Weeto. Professor Weeto was the creator of the cereal and its loveable mascot. He fit the mad scientist trope with his white crazy hair, his lab coat and his stylish patterned bow tie. Through Professor Weeto I learnt that playing with your food is Science. He was a kitchen genius.
Warning: Nostalgia! The truly wonderful thing about the Weetos of my childhood was the free toys. These were not naff freebies like the shower gel samples you get in Cosmo. These were toys that were actually cool. We had Crayola pens that changed colour, rubbers shaped like dinosaurs, trolls when trolls were popular and various animals that could be contained inside your clothing: bunny in my pocket, pony in my pocket, puppy in my pocket, wildebeest in my pocket. We had pencil ends, curly straws, stationary and holographic cards about orangutans.
The trolls were my personal favourite. Not just your run-of-the-mill under-the-bridge-and-having-a-bad-hair-day troll, but trolls who have broken out of the bridge and have got out there, joined a band, played some sports and gone on holiday! I still have my own Professor Weeto troll with his hair long since gone grey instead of Persil white.
|Trolls on Hols, found at http://www.bibelotmania.com/visite.php?pag=cid508_alb&idf=3&idm=1353|
Then out of nowhere the sad decline in exciting breakfasts began. Gone was fighting over whose turn it was to keep the toy and eyeing up the opened box in the pantry; now we had wordsearches. The marketers at Weetabix world kept us entertained with their cheap and lazy puzzles: spot the difference, crosswords and join the dots for the next ten years. Bored at university I would still follow the labyrinth patterns with my eyes every morning.
And now you ask, now what has happened? This:
|Images taken by me of my cereal box|
What were they thinking? My mild sadness at the lack of bizarre plastic creations has been replaced by anger and confusion. We have gone from a proud inventing intellectual –a positive role model, a giver of toys and an aficionado of co-ordinating clothes- to a vain, suicidal jock.
Every morning now I have to look at the back of my cereal packet and see not a picture of a cute puppy that may be contained within, or a simple puzzle to entertain me, but a picture of my food admiring itself. No one wants their food anthropomorphised. It becomes as sinister as the Ooglies. Why does it want to be eaten? Why is my cereal looking in the mirror and flexing its muscles? Why does it even have muscles?
The plastic toys were fun and cool at eight, but at twenty three I accept that, when we should be caring for the planet, kids do not need the resources of the earth turned into pencil toppers. However this is too much. The new Weeto mascot is described as ‘hunky’ on the Weeto website and is also portrayed a being a little bit stupid. In the adverts we seem him attempt some kind of sporting violence, such as boxing a watermelon, but then getting his hand stuck. This does not prevent him launching into the self-absorbed catchphrase, “I’m chocolatey, I’m wholegrain, I am Weeto!” What. An. Idiot.
It is a worrying trend of turning interesting, amusing advertising into an insipid world of gender stereotypes and boredom (and may I remind you that boredom is reserved for adult cereals). I may be twenty-three and eating my chocolatey hoops, but dammit –I want my inner child to have role model I can respect!
 Keating, Sheila (August 6, 2005). "TimesOnline.co.uk - Food detective: cereal offenders". London: Times Newspapers Ltd. Retrieved 2009-06-28. Via Wikipedia.