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  • Writer's pictureDavid Bernhart

Bringing Home the Bacon

I have a love/hate relationship with advertising. I value the information and entertainment that the traditional advertising-based revenue model continues to make available at reduced or no cost. At the same time, I try hard to ignore ads, especially radio and television commercials.

But once in a while, something gets my attention despite my best efforts. An example at the moment involves, of all things, bacon.

Besides the crusade in recent years by pork producers to rebrand bacon as not nearly as detrimental to health as the science indicates, there are marketing campaigns as we speak for multiple products completely unrelated to bacon that nevertheless employ bacon references. Here's a commercial for Hulu, the streaming service:

The insurance firm Wawanesa has a radio ad airing currently that also begins by mentioning bacon, then gets down to the real business of the message. It would have been fascinating to sit in on the strategy sessions in which Hulu and Wawanesa decided that images of bacon would give audiences a warm, fuzzy feeling and have them opening their wallets before the sales pitch even began.

Of course, it isn't as though I just discovered an approach to advertising never used before. This technique is called “association” or “transfer” and involves transferring positive associations about one product to the product being marketed. The technique also has a lengthy history of utilization in politics. I'm reminded of then-councilman Eric Garcetti's 2013 campaign for mayor of Los Angeles. Garcetti delivered a double dose of association in radio commercials about riding as a boy with his family in their wood-paneled station wagon to Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour. All baby boomers remember the Ford Country Squire and Farrell's is a name guaranteed to induce soft-focus nostalgia in anyone who grew up in L.A. in the 1960s or '70s. And it worked; Garcetti won.

On a more sobering note, I see that Farrell's, which once boasted 50 locations on the West Coast and more than a hundred nationwide, now has exactly one restaurant left to its name, in the Orange County city of Brea.

If only they'd mentioned bacon in their ads ...

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