Christmas is over and we’re rolling towards the New Year, which means that once again Subway, the fast-food sandwich chain, is running one of the most deceptive television commercials of the past several years.
The background music—The 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky—drives the commercial. That’s the light classical piece in which the drums sound like cannon fire. While the lead-up to this highly recognizable moment of explosion plays, we see four or five people getting ready to bite away at a hamburger piled high with sauce, cheese and condiments. The people represent a variety of types. As we see a close-up shot of one of the heroes of the commercial chomping down on the big, bad and greasy burger, the cannons start to explode…and so do the people. We see a succession of buttons popping off the pants of the eaters. Then we see one person break a chair and another break a bed, all to Tchaikovsky’s battlefield-like explosions. The actors are a bit chunky but not obese, yet the implication is clear: the fast-food burgers caused the person to gain weight, which has led to the destruction of clothes and furniture.
The tone of the commercial suddenly changes as a narrator starts to tell us that if it’s time to lose some of those unwanted pounds that people should try two Subway sandwiches, both of which have both cheese and meat and one of which has bacon.
And why are these sandwiches great for losing weight? Subway’s narrator gives us the reason: because they only have seven grams of fat each.
And therein lies the deception.
Cutting down on the fat you eat has nothing to do with weight loss. Now there are other reasons to cut down on fat—including avoiding heart disease, diabetes and possibly several types of cancer.
But Subway does not talk about anything but losing weight. And losing weight involves consuming fewer calories than what you burn to live. In other words, you could eat nothing but fat and lose weight if the number of calories you eat is less than what your body is using. For example, I’ve read in many places that a typical male adult should consume 2,200 to 2,600 calories a day. If an adult male eats only 1,500-1,800 calories of fat a day, he can thus lose from one to two pounds a week. And if an adult male eats nothing but lettuce and blueberries but chows down 3,000-3,500 calories of these very healthy foods per day, he’ll blimp up in no time.
I didn’t even bother trying to find out what the calorie count is for these Subway sandwiches, because it does not matter to my analysis. If you say that adding peanut butter to your fuel tank will help a car get better mileage, you’re lying. If you say that toppling Sadam Hussein will hurt al–Qaeda, you’re lying.
And when Subway says you can lose weight eating these sandwiches because of low fat content, it is lying. The music and the good-natured humor of the buttons popping make it a very entertaining lie, but it’s a lie nonetheless, one that many purveyors of processed foods and restaurant cuisine tell often.
I want to close by wishing all OpEdge readers and their families a joyous, creative and prosperous 2011! See you next year.