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December 5, 2010 3:32 PM   Subscribe

Fast food - ads vs. reality
posted by crayz (132 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
Somebody did one of these again, eh?

Eh.
posted by paisley henosis at 3:34 PM on December 5, 2010 [9 favorites]


Next: Advertised women vs real women.
Oh wait--we've done that, too.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 3:36 PM on December 5, 2010


I work with a lot of food stylists and I have to say that their craft is really interesting. One guy told me he made castles out of his mashed potatoes when he was 3 and hasn't quit since.
posted by bradbane at 3:39 PM on December 5, 2010 [14 favorites]


I do think it's interesting that he compared the advertised burgers to the boxes that the actual burgers come in. Not only do the burgers not look like the ones in the ads, but they can't possibly look like them.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:42 PM on December 5, 2010 [16 favorites]


This is what I got when I asked them specifically for burgers as big as in the ads:


As a former fastfood employee, I'd like to tell this guy that he's lucky his requests didn't get him a McPlegmglobber topping for his trouble.
posted by jonmc at 3:46 PM on December 5, 2010 [7 favorites]


While I agree that there needs to be some leeway for what it looks like in a container, I know old food - how far is "place" to studio?

And yeah, having worked with food shooting before, the shelacky stuff they put on the food to make it hot-light-photoshoot-friendly is pretty much a way to make the food non-edible ...
posted by tilde at 3:47 PM on December 5, 2010


I actually really like these sites and don't get sick of them. I appreciate getting grounded in reality and getting educated about that type of distortion. I'm not an idiot, but I do have kind of a knee jerk reaction to delicious looking food even though in the back of my head I know that the real thing won't be awesome but in fact will be vaguely disappointing and make me feel terrible after.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:48 PM on December 5, 2010 [12 favorites]


If that's the attractive end of that taco, I fear what might be on the other side.
posted by ymgve at 3:49 PM on December 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


Hey I think this is pretty awesome even though we all know this goes on. It's still dope-ass to see it codified and shit.
posted by Mister_A at 3:50 PM on December 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


Advertising isn't faithful to the truth?

(As for this project, the silly thing is that the two versions of the foodstuffs are designed to appeal to different senses: the ads to the visual, the sandwiches &c to the tongue and belly. Oddly enough, I seem to need food to look good when I'm not eating it, but care little what it looks like at the moment of consumption as long as it's tasty.)
posted by chavenet at 3:50 PM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


A nice link to a video describing the art of food styling.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:54 PM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


What if this were about cars or something else like clothing bought online?

I think that everybody already knows that fast food won't look the way it does in ads, but I don't think it is bad or wrong to point out how actually weird it is that it happens.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 3:59 PM on December 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


Apparently I am not aware of all internet memes
posted by crayz at 4:01 PM on December 5, 2010


I think this is proof positive that Jack-In-The-Box tacos are a complete joke. Their jalapeño poppers, on the other hand, are pure sinful goodness.
posted by zardoz at 4:06 PM on December 5, 2010


chavenet, it's not just visual vs. consumption. Apart from all the photography techniques and perfectly-formed bread and so on, the reality is that:

- the "ad" burger patties are twice as thick as the ones you actually get
- same goes for the toppings
- most fast-food places use iceberg lettuce, not the leafy green kind in the ads
- all of the above applies to the tacos as well

And I don't care how "interesting" food stylists think their job is, it's still out-and-out lying. Not that that's news, but it never ceases to amaze me how gullible the general population is to keep falling for it, over and over, year after year.
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:08 PM on December 5, 2010 [9 favorites]


This is what I do for a living and the math is simple:

Advertising shoot budget > cost to produce a hamburger

On one side you have a marketing department, advertising agency, and photo production team spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on the uber-burger. On the other, a corporation trying to shave pennies off of an industrialized process that has already been refined over decades.

Frankly I'm surprised the side-by-side looks so similar.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 4:08 PM on December 5, 2010 [11 favorites]


The weird thing is that calling out deception in advertising actually makes it more effective. In a lot of cases, like with luxury brands, advertising only works because consumers think the ads are deceptive! The implicit message is "Buy this car and everyone will think you're smooth and sophisticated just like this guy! They're so gullible and deceived by our advertising!" With a luxury brand, you're not buying the actual product so much as hiring the marketing team as an image consultant, because the marketing is what delivers the desired effect. If you thought advertising wasn't deceptive, you wouldn't buy. This works even when everyone acts like sophisticated consumers, and knows that advertising is deceptive, as long as everyone assumes that someone else is naive and buys into it. So the usual Adbusters strategy of bemoaning the all-powerful marketing companies against the clueless consumer has some unintended effects.

For food advertising, the deception is also out in the open, and maybe the purpose (other than stimulating craving) is to give you plausible deniability - you know the food is disgusting and unhealthy, but the images on the TV convince you that no-one knows this but you. The purpose of advertising is to convince you that you see through the lies and other people believe in it.
posted by AlsoMike at 4:10 PM on December 5, 2010 [14 favorites]


Hey I think this is pretty awesome even though we all know this goes on. It's still dope-ass to see it codified and shit.

I agree!

Also, I really want a chalupa now.
posted by Greg Nog at 4:10 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


And I don't care how "interesting" food stylists think their job is, it's still out-and-out lying.Not that that's news, but it never ceases to amaze me how gullible the general population is to keep falling for it, over and over, year after year.


As someone who had fast food for dinner last night, I can say that I don't feel all that victimized.
posted by jonmc at 4:11 PM on December 5, 2010 [7 favorites]



What if this were about cars or something else like clothing bought online?


I'd love to see this repeated for other products that are marketed visually and where the product sold barely resembles the visual.
posted by Forktine at 4:12 PM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Like online dating sites?
posted by jonmc at 4:13 PM on December 5, 2010 [12 favorites]


I wonder -- if you took one of their ads with you to the counter, would you be able to convince them that they were obligated to provide you with a product as visually depicted, at the advertised price?
posted by hermitosis at 4:14 PM on December 5, 2010


Ah, upon RTFA I see this is dealt with.
posted by hermitosis at 4:15 PM on December 5, 2010


MetaFilter: Rotated to most attractive angle
posted by Nelson at 4:17 PM on December 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


Give this man a plate of beans. He can season it with repetitive verbiage and a pinch of self-serving bullshit. Then he will eat it, with gusto! But it won't make him too full of himself. Oh, no.
posted by Splunge at 4:17 PM on December 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


Obligatory scene from "Falling Down" (relevant part starts toward the end, around 3:45)
posted by Scientist at 4:19 PM on December 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


I remember something from my early childhood that has always stayed with me very vividly. I saw a cool show where they talked about photography and marketing, and they showed how they take photos of beer.. how they have a tube which pumps the beer into the glass just before the photo to get a nice "fresh from the tap" look (legit, I think)...

But then they showed how they would put a gold reflective thing in the shape of a bottle, behind the bottle, to bring out the amber quality, or whatever tone they want, in the beer. Again, legit in my mind. Photography is never an exact science, and if a liquid has a certain patina you want to emphasize, you might have to provide something to get it on film, especially in the mid 80's before Photoshopping. I appreciated the tech aspect of how to make a photo look the way you want it to.

NOW, that said.. it's a completely different situation when it comes to gross burgers. I mean, beer is beer. The bottle looks the same as the ad, and the taste is great.. so I think it's fine to try and emphasize a color. But fast food photos are CRAZY in their fakeness. Hahaha.. I loved this post even if it's been done before.
posted by ReeMonster at 4:20 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


This one cracks me up.
banzi wild waves water park
posted by Ad hominem at 4:22 PM on December 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


This image is so badly lined up it's ridiculous.
posted by scrowdid at 4:30 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know, I've eaten a lot of fast food in my day, and it never looks as shitty as the pictures on this site. I mean, sure, it doesn't look nearly as good as the advertising, but never even close to as disgusting as the fare this man seems to have encountered. I call bullshit.
posted by sunshinesky at 4:34 PM on December 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


Actually, the "actual" taco looks like only half the trouble (and double the fun!).

Who gets to eat the "advertised" taco is what I'd like to know.
posted by mooselini at 4:34 PM on December 5, 2010


jonmc: As someone who had fast food for dinner last night, I can say that I don't feel all that victimized.

Okay, so, not gullible, then - just utterly lacking in taste and basic self-esteem?
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:36 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


He made a lot of sense when he suggested that the advertised burgers have all the ingredients pushed to the front of the buns. That's the only way they could make the presentation look so full, unless they're actually lying about the quantity of the ingredients.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:36 PM on December 5, 2010


On the other hand, McDonald's fries fresh from the fryer taste 1000% better than they look in their pictures.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:37 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nice to be reminded, but haven't we seen this type of exposé on a continual basis since The Medium Is the Message? And has it had much more than a marginal effect on consumer behavior?
posted by blucevalo at 4:38 PM on December 5, 2010


Okay, so, not gullible, then - just utterly lacking in taste and basic self-esteem?

No, just not prissily fussy and lacking a sense of entitlement. I had Popeye's, I'm 40 years old and I've been there often enough to know what rto expect. it wasn't world class cuisine, but it was tasty and filling. If I had come in with a picture and demanded to tghe wage slaves behind the counter make it look just fucking so, I wouldn't blame them if they would have thrown me into the fryolator unbattered.
posted by jonmc at 4:40 PM on December 5, 2010 [18 favorites]


I wonder if this comes under Puffery.

The United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) defined puffery as a "term frequently used to denote the exaggerations reasonably to be expected of a seller as to the degree of quality of his product, the truth or falsity of which cannot be precisely determined." [2]

The FTC stated in 1984 that puffery does not warrant enforcement action by the Commission. In its FTC Policy Statement on Deception, the Commission stated: "The Commission generally will not pursue cases involving obviously exaggerated or puffing representations, i.e., those that the ordinary consumers do not take seriously."

posted by StickyCarpet at 4:41 PM on December 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


I wonder -- if you took one of their ads with you to the counter, would you be able to convince them that they were obligated to provide you with a product as visually depicted, at the advertised price?

Why would you want a two dimensional burger?
posted by bradbane at 4:46 PM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Maybe I'm just super susceptible to advertising, but even remembering some of the atrocious burgers I have had at McDonald's et al, I still think of them as looking like the picture.

Cows don't look like cows on film.
posted by doublehappy at 4:48 PM on December 5, 2010


"The Commission generally will not pursue cases involving obviously exaggerated or puffing representations, i.e., those that the ordinary consumers do not take seriously."

Translation: "We don't protect people too dumb to know we exist."
posted by clarknova at 4:50 PM on December 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


I like 'em greasy and smooshed.
posted by ian1977 at 4:50 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't blame them if they would have thrown me into the fryolator unbattered

Wouldn't the act of throwing you into the fryolator be battery?
posted by maxwelton at 4:51 PM on December 5, 2010 [21 favorites]


Okay, I'm basically on board with his main project here, but damn, those are some sorry Whoppers. I don't get them very often, but the last one I had wasn't nearly that pathetic.
posted by valkyryn at 4:52 PM on December 5, 2010


I wonder -- if you took one of their ads with you to the counter, would you be able to convince them that they were obligated to provide you with a product as visually depicted, at the advertised price?

Only after you had entered into a contract to purchase one, and then they would only need to make a reasonable effort to make the burger look like the picture. You could never enforce delivery of a burger whose image was a perfect facsimile of the advertisement - that would lead to absurdity, and would be impossible even if they showed depictions of the "actual" burgers in their advertising.
posted by doublehappy at 4:55 PM on December 5, 2010


I'm really not trying to be contrary here; with a lot of those photos, I think the "real" one looks really good. The second whopper, with the melted cheese flowing out an all sides? Want.
posted by roll truck roll at 4:56 PM on December 5, 2010


Does anyone ever look at an ad photo of a burger expecting to actually get that, as displayed? Anyone? Ever? Is there even any expectation anywhere that the item will be handed to you looking like the photo? I'm asking.

I look at photos of burgers and such to get an idea of what's on it, not what the delivered product will look like. And I think that's the only reason 1) the photos are taken in the first place, and 2) people ever look at the photos.

Given that, a realistic photo that hid the ingredients would be a bad idea. The stylist photos are best from a consumer standpoint, not just marketing.
posted by y6y6y6 at 4:58 PM on December 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


I like how we* all accept media lies not only as unremarkable but pointing them out as worthy of retribution.

*And by "we" I mean "MetaFilter".
posted by DU at 4:58 PM on December 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yes, we sheeple need to wake up. thatk you for pointing that out.
posted by jonmc at 5:10 PM on December 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


I like this version.
posted by wv kay in ga at 5:15 PM on December 5, 2010


All I need to know about advertising, I learned from Bill Hicks.
posted by dbiedny at 5:17 PM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I wish my broccoli came as advertised. =(
posted by carsonb at 5:19 PM on December 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


The McDonald's real food is eerily close to the advertising. Is that good or bad?
posted by Xoebe at 5:20 PM on December 5, 2010


y6y6y6 has it for me. I use the photos for ingredient identification, though even those tend to hide sauces. That being said, when there is a huge discrepancy between the two I feel a twinge of deceit.
posted by Phantomx at 5:21 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I love all the reactions in here that are 'Yeah we know about this existing problem so can we please stop acknowledging it?'
posted by shakespeherian at 5:22 PM on December 5, 2010 [10 favorites]


wow! that was truly brilliant.
thanks!
posted by liza at 5:23 PM on December 5, 2010


back when people were being recruited to colonize america, the wonders of the land were mercilessly exaggerated - a land of milk and honey was revealed to be full of malarial swamps, rocky farmland and cold-assed winters

this country was established by con-artistry and continues to thrive on it - this is why we never have too much honesty in our commerce and government - the american people have become so accustomed to being lied to that they think something's wrong when they're told the truth - and they get angry and defensive about it, because admitting the truth would mean admitting they were fools

you can explain a great deal of our history and culture just by this
posted by pyramid termite at 5:24 PM on December 5, 2010 [27 favorites]


I have no idea how things are today, but when I was younger I knew a food stylist and there were folks on hand during add shoots to compare the camera-ready food with the advertised product so that, for instance, if the product as sold had shredded iceburg lettuce, you could not photograph any other type of lettuce and the iceberg would have to be, in fact, shredded.

As a person who does not photograph well, my sympathy is with the Whopper. If only there was a food stylist around to put soy-sauce grill marks on me!
posted by Lesser Shrew at 5:27 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I call BS on the Whopper. They look at least in the vaguely in the ballpark of the photo and are incredibly delicious with BK poutine.
posted by stp123 at 5:38 PM on December 5, 2010


When I was about 10, the kid's version of Consumer Reports (I don't remember if it was PennySaver or Zillions at that point) did an article about advertisements, focusing on an ad for hot cocoa, and how to get the bubbles for the photo they added soap. Then my teacher (in 5th grade!) did a month and a half long unit on advertising, including a page on "sex appeal" that led to the first time any of us heard a teacher that word out loud. My eyes have been sadly wool-free for decades.

And I don't eat any of those burgers, but I have to say that the last Taco Bell taco I got looked a lot better than the one he got. I think he may live in an area where the restaurants are below-average.
posted by SMPA at 5:47 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


This does not bother me, because generally I avoid fast food.

Problem solved!
posted by bwg at 5:57 PM on December 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


The best McDonalds I've ever had was in Beijing. I had nuggets and my cousin had a Big Mac and they were both almost identical to the images in the adverts, as well as distressingly tasty. This more than anything made me realize exactly how much China is clearly a force with which to be reckoned. I can only hope they use these powers for good and not for evil.

Conversely, a plain burger from the McD's on broadway across from NYU Meyer made me a firm believer in the existence of demonic possession of the small intestine.
posted by elizardbits at 6:03 PM on December 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


Of all the millions of Americans who go into McDonalds every year, how many have never seen a Big Mac in person before?

Come on. We all know what these things really look like, and we all still get momentarily hungry when we see the advertised McPotemkin Burgers. This goes for the most slack-jawed yokel as well as for the biggest plate-of-bean-overthinker.

It's decades too late to call this fraud. Let's call it a shared delusion. A salty, greasy, tasty, tasty shared delusion.
posted by PlusDistance at 6:03 PM on December 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


I think the more important thing here is that as you scroll down the page -- as, scrolling down, you reveal each image -- the image fades up from dim to full brightness. At first I thought it was just me, my eyes playing tricks on me. Then I figured it might be this laptop automatically brightening the screen as the images' white backgrounds illuminated its light sensor. But no! Upon closer inspection: no! These images, they actually grow from dim to bright as they are revealed on screen. By what magic does this occur? By what magic? And do they become dim again as they scroll off the top? No. They stay bright.
posted by nobody at 6:05 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


These secondary objects are called hrönir and are, though awkward in form, somewhat longer.
posted by pravit at 6:05 PM on December 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


SMPA: "When I was about 10, the kid's version of Consumer Reports (I don't remember if it was PennySaver or Zillions at that point)"

I definitely read a copy of Zillions in the late 90s that had an article about food styling. It mentioned that some fried chicken places inject their fried chicken legs with mashed potatoes to make them look plumper, smear the burger's edges with vaseline, and may put some weird other white liquid instead of milk in cereal for cereal commercials. Mind was blown, and it's always been in the back of my mind since.
posted by Night_owl at 6:14 PM on December 5, 2010


may put some weird other white liquid instead of milk in cereal for cereal commercials

I recall reading that it's Elmer's Glue.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:15 PM on December 5, 2010


Yep, definitely Elmer's glue in the cereal. I still think of it whenever I look at a box of Cheerios.
posted by SMPA at 6:35 PM on December 5, 2010


Until they start making burgers that look like the commercials, or until they start taking pictures of smooshed, small burgers, none of us are free.
posted by mreleganza at 6:46 PM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


All I need to know about advertising, I learned from Bill Hicks.
well, hicks was a mediocre moron.

I was once at a food shot where the stylist coated strawberries in spray glue. of course some extra-important douche felt free to ignore the "do not eat, these are props" signs all over the place. we didn't tell him but his face was priceless once he realized those almonds he grabbed a handful of where actually garlic.
posted by krautland at 6:49 PM on December 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'm with Splunge; the food looks alright, but the writing is bloody awful.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 7:03 PM on December 5, 2010


"the american people have become so accustomed to being lied to that they think something's wrong when they're told the truth"

Maybe you should change the name of the US to "GlenBeckistan"?
posted by sneebler at 7:51 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]



Someone better tell this guy about the pictures in the best sushi place in town. Or the best eggroll place. Or the best Gyro place. Or the best curry place.

Because none of those places have food that matches the picture on the menus either.

Come to think of it, the worst places have the same problem.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:55 PM on December 5, 2010


Why is there such a rush to defend this practice? It should actually be illegal to advertise a completely different product than what you're selling. No, this doesn't invalidate all advertising - just amazingly deceitful advertising that actually shows a completely different product. I don't see the problem with advocating that this practice stop.
posted by odinsdream at 7:58 PM on December 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm not above enjoying fast food now and then, and I found these hilarious. I know it's been done before, but I've never seen it done with such high production values for the photos of the crappy real fast food, and that really adds to the effect.
posted by moss at 8:01 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Domino's (pizza) recently had a campaign that touted the fact that they have begun using only "real" photos of "real" pizzas in their marketing. I wouldn't eat a Domino's pizza if it gave me magical powers (though to be fair, I haven't tried their new, improved version) but I like the approach they are taking in their advertising lately.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:03 PM on December 5, 2010


Someone better tell this guy about the pictures in the best sushi place in town.

I agree with you on the rest, but if the best sushi place in your town doesn't produce beautiful food, the kind that you take a long pause just to look at for a while before you dig in, food that makes the photos look like precisely what they are -- unappetizing plasticky mock-ups -- then you don't have any good sushi places in your town.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:05 PM on December 5, 2010 [8 favorites]


Someone better tell this guy about the pictures in the best sushi place in town.

The website of the best sushi place in town has what are very clearly real pictures of its actual food. If anything, the pictures look significantly worse than what they actually serve: in real life, it both looks and tastes delicious. If anything, that exercise helped convince me that it's fair to bring in food stylists to help the pictures match reality better. Photographing food is hard.
posted by moss at 8:09 PM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


well, hicks was a mediocre moron.

Dear Sir or Madam,

I wanted to understand what you were writing. But I don't think that we are speaking the same damn language. Perhaps we are speaking about a different Bill Hicks. The one I'm thinking of is a comedian who spoke about the human condition in a way that spoke to a lot of us on a visceral level. In the gut, as it were. Perhaps he was speaking to you as well. But what he was saying wasn't what you wanted to hear. Perhaps he gave you or yours a dig that hit home?

If this is so I can only feel sad.

Bill Hicks was many things. He might have even been a moron, to you. But he was most assuredly not mediocre.

And if I parse moron correctly, he wasn't that either.

What I think, and I might be wrong, is that you are closer to being a "moron" than Mr. Hicks. I personally don't normally use that word, but since you did I think I may be allowed it this once.

I am sorry that Bill once fucked your dog or pissed in your cornflakes. But he is a better person than you will ever be. Ever. Even dead he smells better than you. He will be famous long after your sperm dries in your sock. Be sad that you wrote what you did.

Walk away. And don't step on the flowers.
posted by Splunge at 8:09 PM on December 5, 2010 [14 favorites]


Whoppers are okay on Wednesdays when they cost less, but never buy the Steakhouse Burger. I was once fooled by a coupon for that which came in the mail. Flat hunk of roadkill - with tire tracks - that hangs so deflated over the everyday spongy Burger King bun. I was unable to determine the relationship of actual onions to the dried up flecks of chippy things that fled the burger as soon as the wrapper came off.
posted by TimTypeZed at 8:38 PM on December 5, 2010


It should actually be illegal to advertise a completely different product than what you're selling.

It is. They just take more time and care in selecting and arranging the product than your average Burger King employee.
posted by bradbane at 8:38 PM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


A flat hunk of road kill with tire tracks on it would be an improvement, because it would have recognizably come from one animal.
posted by aniola at 8:54 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Keep heavy cream and cheese in you fridge, and pasta. If you're vegan, try to have something similar.
posted by snofoam at 8:54 PM on December 5, 2010


Bill Hicks was a good comedian.

However, every single person in the world has seen that "advertisers should kill themselves" video now. There is never a good reason to link to it again. Never.
posted by JDHarper at 9:05 PM on December 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


It's exactly the same product. It's just had hundreds of thousands of dollars and the energy of a few hundred people spent on it to present it in the best possible light. This is the role of advertising and given enough time and energy, I could make your next burger look like that. But not if I had to get 50 other burgers out at the same time.
posted by Jubey at 9:22 PM on December 5, 2010


All I need to know about advertising, I learned from Bill Hicks.

There's a subset of people who like Bill Hicks, and who were aware of Bill Hicks before AOL even started sending out those CD's.

And we're a little tired of the "Kill Yourselves!" thing being run into the ground by Internet People who can't think of an original way to complain.

Of course, I have no idea how large this subset of people may be. I could just be speaking for myself.

I urge everyone who's ever tempted to copy/paste that line again to try it.
posted by Cyrano at 9:24 PM on December 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


I am deeply offended by this slanderous assault on the very bedrock of American Society, the Fast Food Industry, and on the young men and women who give everything they have to provide hard-working Americans with nutritious and reasonably-priced hamburgers and meal combos.
posted by Flashman at 9:25 PM on December 5, 2010


Krabby Patty.
posted by mazola at 9:28 PM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's exactly the same product.

Think you're overstating that by quite a bit. If the advertisement shows at least one full leaf of lettuce and what you get is a couple of small scraps of iceberg, that's not the same product. If the photo shows a patty whose visible dimensions are far larger than the real burger (to say nothing of having a completely different texture), that's not the same product. If the photo depicts two 1/4" thick slices of tomato and you got one about a 16th of an inch thick, it's not the same product.

given enough time and energy, I could make your next burger look like that.

The process and ingredients provided to the workers doesn't allow for the creation of burgers like that. They literally could not do it within the terms of their employment and with the materials available to them. In other words, the advertising depicts a product that's not only different from what they will give you, it's different from what they can give you.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:30 PM on December 5, 2010 [8 favorites]


"Rotated to most attractive angle"

*laughs head clean off*

Oh man that shit is perfect.
posted by mediareport at 9:31 PM on December 5, 2010


Oh man that shit is perfect.

I doubt there is enough fiber.
posted by maxwelton at 9:35 PM on December 5, 2010


Yep, what George Spiggott said. I make burgers that look like that, and can usually find places that can come close. It's done by carefully selecting and using premium and fresh ingredients and cooking them with skill. The fast food franchises simply are not those places. A goal of advertising is to get people to stop using their brains, to make decisions emotionally, and to do what every one else does, that they may then be profitably marketed to. One role of advertising is to get people to settle for mediocrity as a matter of routine , and to believe that McDonald's or Burger King are actually worthwhile places to invest your food dollars. Which was Hicks' point, of course. Man, I miss him, and I don't get tired of that bit, because he was right.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 9:46 PM on December 5, 2010


I'm still sniggering at "fluffing" the burgers for the camera.
posted by clerestory at 9:47 PM on December 5, 2010


Splunge, a million+ thanks to you. And to those complaining that I linked to that Bill Hicks piece, well, it was better than commenting on the fact that many of the responses to this post seem to indicate a total sense of apathy towards the lies of advertising. If I live in a nightmare, it's a nightmare where Bill Hicks shows up everywhere, repeatedly, endlessly, to remind me that I'm not alone in wanting to wake the fuck up.
posted by dbiedny at 9:50 PM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Nasty Patties.
posted by dead cousin ted at 9:57 PM on December 5, 2010


On one hand I can sort of appreciate that the ad people just have to make up for the fact that most of appeal of real food will be in the tasty aroma and being hungry and up close to it and a relatively lower-res photo printer in all sorts of mediums and shown on TV has to look as good as competition, at the very least. On the other hand, I bet all of this is causing a kind of a country-wide subliminal mind-fuck. People know and at the same time they don't know. Different regions of the brain! I just can't imagine any good will come from this. Just. Can't.
posted by rainy at 10:08 PM on December 5, 2010


What's actually really strange, as someone who grew up in the US used to this stuff, is that restaurants here in Japan (from fast food on up) generally have photos of nearly every item on the menu, and it's a rare day indeed when what you get doesn't look essentially identical to the glamor shots.

They also individually wrap Oreos here, making it a lot harder to eat them all in one sitting. The rat bastards.
posted by DoctorFedora at 10:13 PM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


If all cookies, donuts, etc were all individually wrapped here, it would decrease average US (over)weight by 15% overnight. Literally overnight.
posted by rainy at 10:19 PM on December 5, 2010


Regarding cars: most of the ads feature a car with all of the available options, yet only prominently mention the base price. The "price with options" are always listed, briefly, as fine print. Often, the total price of the options isn't even specified. No product is immune to bait & switch.
posted by Brocktoon at 10:24 PM on December 5, 2010


First, they misrepresented our burgers. And I said nothing, for I enjoyed the end product anyway.

Then, they misrepresented our tacos. And I said nothing, for I don't eat tacos.

Then, they misrepresented our french fries. And I said nothing...
posted by mreleganza at 10:25 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


My brain is broken, and so naturally looking at this made me crave fast food somehow. I went to Wendy's and got a chicken club, and I was a little surprised that, for the most part, it resembled the picture on the menu.
posted by heathkit at 1:00 AM on December 6, 2010


You know who has burgers that look like those (advertising) pictures? The Nifty Fifties on Grant Ave. in northeast Philly. Yeah, I was surprised too.

Also, and I think most people are aware of this, the burger you get from a fast food place will look at LOT better if you can think up some kind of customization to do it it. No mustard, VL ketchup, etc. The employee will move right past the box of premade burgers to make you a new one. ALWAYS do this in the hour or two after rush periods, when there's a backlog of extra, old stuff they need to clear out.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 1:08 AM on December 6, 2010


... the burger you get from a fast food place will look at LOT better if you can think up some kind of customization to do it it. No mustard, VL ketchup, etc. ...
posted by stupidsexyFlanders


I used to do this, now I take a more straight-forward approach. This only works when there isn't rush on. I ask to talk to the grill person, or holler back to them, and tell them I'm willing wait as long as it takes to make an Angus burger from scratch. Including the bacon. Sort of complement them in advance about how good it's going to be, and the take out is for the girlfriend, who is skeptical about the franchise, and we can prove her wrong with with this wonderful fresh burger that the master fry cook is going to make by applying all of their skills (or whatever other motivational back-story applies.)

I've done that maybe 8 times at 3 places, and they get into it. They usually make sure that the fries are right out of the fryer to complement their masterpiece.
posted by StickyCarpet at 1:26 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Who actually eats ths rubbish anyway?
posted by Major Tom at 2:00 AM on December 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


No one goes to fast food places anymore; they're too crowded.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 2:10 AM on December 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


"but when I was younger I knew a food stylist and there were folks on hand during add shoots to compare the camera-ready food with the advertised product so that, for instance, if the product as sold had shredded iceburg lettuce, you could not photograph any other type of lettuce and the iceberg would have to be, in fact, shredded."

This is undoubtedly the case. I work in TV advertising clearance in the UK and we often request samples of new fast food products - we also ask that any ingredient sequences and descriptions are accurate (if MegaBurger say their products are hand-breaded, it's because we have the document somewhere that says so). We're extra-vigilant since Burger King fell foul of the rules...

However, I'm not sure who oversees point-of-sale photographs like the ones here (at least, that's what I presume these are - the presentation is fairly poor and it would be useful to know what we're looking at here). My favourite ones are the ones in kebab shops which are virtually luminous in their succulence.
posted by mippy at 3:21 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


From mippy's link:
We acknowledged the man was shown holding the burger in various other shots during the ad but noted in those shots the burger was either not fully visible or was not the focus of attention, and considered that the relative size of the burger to the mans hands had not been established in these images. We purchased three Tendercrisp chicken burgers and noted the thickness of the burgers, the quantity of additional fillings (such as salad) and the subsequent overall height of the product was considerably less than appeared in the ad.
I can only bow in the presence of a true master of bureaucratic language.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 4:23 AM on December 6, 2010


It is. They just take more time and care in selecting and arranging the product than your average Burger King employee.

I have no idea how you can seriously claim that the advertising photos use anything remotely like the product being served. Is this seriously what you're claiming?
posted by odinsdream at 6:02 AM on December 6, 2010


This reminds me a lot of online dating!!!
posted by The1andonly at 6:02 AM on December 6, 2010


Regarding cars: most of the ads feature a car with all of the available options, yet only prominently mention the base price. The "price with options" are always listed, briefly, as fine print. Often, the total price of the options isn't even specified. No product is immune to bait & switch.

The advertised car actually exists for purchase, at some price. The wording in the ad is suspect, but they're not advertising something that literally cannot be purchased. This is exactly what's happening with the burgers. There is no way you can purchase the advertised burger, ever, anywhere.

I'd like to clarify something: I don't think it should necessarily be illegal for fast food places to adorn their walls with pictures of awesome-looking food in general. What I'm specifically wondering about is why people are defending photo advertisements of specific menu items that are absolutely not what you get when you order that item.

If the menu box shows individual pictures next to each numbered item, they should be reasonably accurate. These are blatant lies, and I don't understand why it's at all controversial to advocate that this practice be made illegal, or if it's already illegal, enforced.
posted by odinsdream at 6:09 AM on December 6, 2010


What amazes me is that Jon continues to eat fast food despite admitting the possibility of spit in it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:18 AM on December 6, 2010


Perhaps tha authorities are not as vigilant now as they have been. Campbell's Soup ran into some trouble themselves in the past. (scroll down to Campbell's Soup Scandal)
posted by Steakfrites at 7:00 AM on December 6, 2010


I'll just leave this here: Professional-looking food photos and their set-ups, a discussion on Flickr. Not so much "truth in advertising," but more of a look into the work required to stage really good looking food.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:00 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


When I lived in Tokyo, I was struck by how much more the McDonald's Big Macs looked like the advertising. They didn't come in boxes there, and they were wrapped with a protective cardboard cylinder, to help them hold their shape. I chalk it up to the fact that presentation is really, really important in Japan, and a chain like that might not survive long if the burgers were as consistent a letdown as they are here.

They also had McDonald's "dining" - where you got real silverware and a real plate, and decor that was slightly more upscale than your typical Starbucks. And a dessert bar. Man, after a late night of drinking in Akasaka, that place rocked.
posted by bashos_frog at 7:20 AM on December 6, 2010


I get a little suspect when my fast food burger doesn't look like it's been sat on. I always imagine there's an overweight sixteen year old kid, hired specifically to sit on the burgers after they're wrapped and before they get in the bag.

(And yes, I still eat fast food anyway.)
posted by sonika at 7:58 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I swear, if you had to use one [a Jack In The Box taco] as a snorkel, to save your life, you would die.

I got as far as this sentence and am now far too distracted by trying to envision scenarios in which one would find it necessary to utilize a Jack In The Box taco as a snorkel to care at all about whether the food photography is accurate.
posted by ook at 7:58 AM on December 6, 2010


This blogger is WAY to enamored with drop shadows. Jesus Christ.

Splunge, that was one of the best internet takedowns I've seen in a while. Tip of the hat.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 8:06 AM on December 6, 2010


Meh.
I worked at an ice cream chain which used colored Crisco for their pictures b/c it doesn't melt and gave them all day to shoot. I've also heard stories about turkeys cooked (?) with a butane torch to ensure the skin came out the perfect color in commercials. Had they actually cut open the turkey, it would be completely raw inside. Actual food not matching the ads isn't surprising.
posted by Crash at 8:28 AM on December 6, 2010


Pogo_Fuzzybutt wrote: "Because none of those places have food that matches the picture on the menus either."

I have found through extensive research (also known as dining) that any place (in the US) that has pictures of its food on its menu is so unlikely to be the "best" of its particular cuisine that the intersection between the two can be ignored as noise.
posted by wierdo at 9:07 AM on December 6, 2010


Crash: "Meh.
I worked at an ice cream chain which used colored Crisco for their pictures b/c it doesn't melt and gave them all day to shoot.
"

I thought that was illegal? I thought the actual product in the ad had to be the real thing, even if it had "makeup" on; if you were advertising ice cream you had to take pictures of ice cream.
posted by Night_owl at 9:15 AM on December 6, 2010


They also had McDonald's "dining" - where you got real silverware and a real plate, and decor that was slightly more upscale than your typical Starbucks. And a dessert bar. Man, after a late night of drinking in Akasaka, that place rocked.

There is, or was, a McDonalds in Manhattan's financial district that has waiter service, complimentary copies of the wall street journal, and some poor schmuck playing away on a grand piano. I would trade that guy for a desert bar though.

Piano Man
posted by Ad hominem at 9:17 AM on December 6, 2010


Piano Man

"...makin' love to his nuggets and gin."
posted by Trochanter at 11:13 AM on December 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


The funny thing about food glamour shots (and it's been touched on in this thread), is that even though people will consciously KNOW they're fake, and they KNOW that the real product will look nothing like the masterpiece in the ad, if Burger King had a series of "realistic" burgers, in spite of all of this high-minded cognition, people would abandon it for say, McDonald's, or somewhere with 'nicer' pictures.

Psychology is a fascinating thing, even moreso when people try to pretend they've outgrown theirs.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:35 AM on December 6, 2010


Nuthin better than McSmoosh'd burger and potato flavored sugar sticks.
posted by Israel Tucker at 12:00 PM on December 6, 2010


Oddly enough, I seem to need food to look good when I'm not eating it, but care little what it looks like at the moment of consumption as long as it's tasty.)

chavenet, if that's true, you would be nearly unique amongst human beings (with vision) for being immune to the visual appeal of food.

Hint: it's not true.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:23 PM on December 6, 2010


someone on dominos pizza: I haven't tried their new, improved version...
it's just more cheese. way more cheese. saturated fats galore.
posted by krautland at 1:49 PM on December 6, 2010


At this point I wouldn't be shocked if some fancy restaurant advertised itself with pictures of glorious plates piles high with delicacies and then you get there and you are served a saltine with peanut butter

because you know like there was fine print in the commercial or something so it's okay
posted by tehloki at 2:44 PM on December 6, 2010


I enjoyed this article, but I have to agree with some who said this guy's local fast food seems below average. I've gotten Big Macs, recently, that looked closer than that. I never really go to Burger King, which looked terrible in his article.

And he is so correct when he says that what Jack in the Box serves can scarcely be described as "tacos."

It comes to mind, though, that In-n-Out pretty much nails it on a regular basis. Their burgers are roughly the same size as advertised, and when served, are usually attractively packaged. Sure, I've had some messy burgers from them from time to time, but that's the exception.
posted by malapropist at 10:50 PM on December 6, 2010


you know, I think the whole "ads vs. reality" photo comparison is bullshit. the ads are shot with super-wide angle lenses and from an elevated position so you can see more of the top surface. I could actually see the dimensions being close enough so that they would still fit into the box, it's just a different angle and better lighting. look at his comparison shots and you'll see absolutely nothing but the side of each burger. that's a pretty good indication to me that he used a long lens. if you don't know what I mean go get your portrait taken with a 10mm lens and then with an 80mm lens and you'll see how different the very same person looks.
posted by krautland at 5:31 PM on December 7, 2010


I have no idea how you can seriously claim that the advertising photos use anything remotely like the product being served. Is this seriously what you're claiming?

I can seriously claim that because I work on advertising shoots for food on a regular basis. They use the exact same thing you would get in the store - they are required by law to do this, and no one wants to advertise a product they don't actually sell. They just have a team of people who spend days making one burger - and then reproduce it in two dimensions - but they do use the exact same ingredients as the minimum wage worker handing you your greasy gutbomb in the drive-thru.
posted by bradbane at 7:13 PM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Bradbane, to your knowledge do they do what that website suggests: artfully pile the ingredients to the front so that they look larger than they would otherwise be? In other words, make a half-moon shaped burger, because nobody will see the other side?
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:08 PM on December 7, 2010


I can support this claim because, yep, it's my job too. We don't put different ingredients in it, why would we? It's illegal for a start. More care is taken to make it look better as you would expect but aside from that it's the same. I've never been served fast food that looks anywhere near as bad as what's been presented here so my experience is totally different. My burgers have been smooshed down a bit but like it's been said, that's to fit them in the box. The outrage here feels somewhat extreme for what we are talking about. Do you feel the same way the first time you see your date without make up as well?
posted by Jubey at 9:20 PM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Bradbane, to your knowledge do they do what that website suggests: artfully pile the ingredients to the front so that they look larger than they would otherwise be? In other words, make a half-moon shaped burger, because nobody will see the other side?

The food (and set, lighting, props, etc.) are all built to the camera, just like any other kind of photo shoot. I am not a food stylist, but the reason for artfully piling ingredients to the front is so that people can actually tell what is on the burger they are ordering. Maybe that is an evil deception, but the purpose of the photo is to communicate as much information about the product as possible.
posted by bradbane at 11:15 AM on December 18, 2010


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