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Susan's Mother Says


Analysis > Susan's Mother Says


There's a clever advert on TV at the moment, for Kellogg's Crunchy Nut Flakes that grabs you, irritates you then amuses you, all within a few seconds. At the same time, it subtly persuades that you absolutely must adopt the product.

So what's the story?

A teenage girl is helping herself to the said cereal and comments to her mother (in that grindingly arrogant way that teenagers have) that 'Susan's mother says' the cereal is good for you. Of course she is really talking to the viewer, but through a dramatic pattern familiar to many parents. Having been established as an unimpeachable authority, Susan's mother then goes on to describe why the cereal is so good -- vitamins, minerals and so on.

It's a neat ploy: If you were lectured by an adult expert (including Susan's mother) on the benefits of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, you'd likely discount it as cynical persuasion, yet a teenage girl manages to pull it off. We tend to believe that children do not lie in such situations (hence all the kids in other ads). Tactless exposition without consideration for others also seems likely to be truthful.

The teenage stake in the heart then comes: 'Susan's mother looks really good.' and, with a twist of the knife, 'You should try some.' The blow, however, is softened by a shot of the mother, who has a gently wry smile as she glances at her daughter (whilst actually flirting with the viewer). We forgive the girl the insult because her mother looks pretty good herself -- not an obvious glamour model, but subtly attractive. Her quiet tolerance of the irritating child is also attractive. Such saintly people are rare and we feel they would also forgive us our little sins.

Another hidden purpose in the girl describing Susan's mother as 'looking good' is that we tend to trust attractive people more (think of all the good-looking people on TV!), and so this helps to cement Susan's mother as an authority in our minds.

And of course, the message in this last statement is that if you eat Crunchy Nut Cornflakes then you will look good too. This is, of course, totally false and would be illegal if stated directly but, through the mouth of a child using an attractive authority and with visible evidence in the mother, we have little option but to accept this as true.

Overall, then, the core message is that if you want health and beauty, all you have to do is eat Kellogg's Crunchy Nut Flakes for the rest of your long and lovely life!

See also

Association principle


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