NEW YORK—A television commercial for Nabisco's Fig Newton bars that debuted Friday preys on a wide range of innate human weaknesses, from greed and gluttony to the compulsive need for self-gratification in an otherwise cold and uncaring world, industry sources reported Monday.
"Flattery, pride, self-aggrandizement, fear of rejection: This latest Fig Newtons ad campaign fires on all cylinders," advertising executive and CNBC talk-show host Donny Deutsch said. "It has nothing but contempt for its target audience, its exploitative nature borders on the unethical, and it's one of the most brilliant marketing strategies in years."
Though the mise-en-scène of the 20-second spot is simple enough—an overworked suburban mother experiences a dream of paradise while biting into a Fig Newton, oblivious to her overflowing washing machine and four raucous children—it reaches consumers from every age group and background, as well as those suffering from all forms of fear, regret, and crippling uncertainty.
"Mmmm," intones a tellingly paternalistic narrator, masterfully invoking humanity's pained longing for a supreme truth and its often reckless pursuit of short-term solutions. "So chewy! So delicious! So completely irresistible!"
"Isn't it time you took a Fig Newtons break?" the commercial continues, ruthlessly preying on mankind's escapist tendencies and seizing upon several deep-seated self-destructive impulses.
Although the first 10 seconds alone employ enough psychological gambits to sway even the most emotionally secure viewer, Nabisco's latest ad leaves little to chance, tapping into bedrock human faults like susceptibility to guilt and the slavish desire for acceptance to push the sale of its fig-filled treats.
"It's a perfect, wholesome snack for any time of the day," the commercial eagerly announces, while the image of a young child—himself a physical representation of purity—tempts viewers with the prospect of recapturing their long-lost sense of innocence. "Fig Newtons are ooey-gooey great!"
"Go on, you deserve it!" the psychologically manipulative onslaught persists, at once addressing, encouraging, and currying feelings of inferiority and self-doubt that have been a mainstay of the human condition for the past 6,000 years.
"Fig Newtons—it's not a cookie, it's fruit and cake!" the advertisement finally concludes, subliminally appealing to consumers who have long yearned to break free of the confining categories into which society has placed them, and for whom even a commercially available dessert might symbolize the individuality they so intensely seek.
According to marketing media analyst Glenda Howth, besides plumbing the depths of the human psyche, Nabisco's latest commercial also takes advantage of phenomena unique to modern society.
"Nabisco shrewdly taps into a mother's conflict between wanting to care for her children while still retaining her pre-maternal sense of freedom and identity," Howth said. "Add an emphasis on the fat-free qualities of the snack that appeals to one's vanity and plays upon the often shallow connection made between physical attraction and self-worth in today's world, and you have one very powerful ad."
Brown University psychology professor Scott Luchs concurred with Howth's assessment.
"This might be the most subconsciously manipulative commercial I've seen since Procter & Gamble used man's fear of death to market Crest toothpaste," Luchs said. "In time, this ad could even rival M&M's 1983 campaign of jealousy, resentment, and the need for human companionship."
Although the true effectiveness of the commercial has yet to be seen, early figures from Nabisco indicate a nearly 4 percent sales increase among many prized demographics, including unmarried women ages 18 to 37 who desperately wish to have a family, single men between the ages 25 and 40 who suffer from unresolved abandonment issues, and girls in the 7-10 age bracket who already possess debilitating body image concerns.
"I used to think Fig Newtons were bland and tasteless," said Martha Waterson, a recent divorcée from Aberdeen, MD who is reflexively averse to change, is governed by prejudice and assumption, blindly trusts authority, believes in retribution, desires reassurance, is guilty of envy, lies to avoid hurtful truths, and suffers from separation and alienation anxiety. "Now I can't stop eating them."
"I guess you never really know someone, huh?" Waterson added.