We all know that America has an obesity problem. But guess what – as usual, our brave advertising executives have the answer. First, there's this ad for Nutella. "As a mom," our friendly actress says, "I'm a great believer in Nutella, a delicious hazelnut spread I use to get my kids to eat healthy foods." And what are these "healthy foods," you ask? Bread. With Nutella on it. If you're hungry for more healthy food, you could try taking a carrot, wrapping it in a slice of bacon, and dipping it in chocolate frosting.
After all that healthy eating, you might be looking to shed a few pounds. So why not stop in at Taco Bell? The fast-food giant is currently trying to sell us on something they call the "Drive-thru diet," which involves eating at Taco Bell, and ordering something with less processed cheese than your usual fare. They've even got a spokesperson who lost 54 pounds allegedly doing just this. Public health crisis averted! To appease the spoilsports at the Federal Trade Commission, tiny words at the bottom of the screen inform us that her results are "not typical," and the tacos and burritos on display are "Not a low-calorie food." You don't say.
One of the things this demonstrates is that we have to be attuned to the distinction between relative and absolute differences. The fact that a particular Taco Bell burrito has slightly fewer calories than another Taco Bell burrito doesn’t mean it's going to help you lose weight. But the real question is, just how dumb are we? Will dieters be going to Taco Bell so they'll lose weight, while caring moms will spread Nutella (which, by the way, is undeniably tasty) on a piece of bread in the belief they're giving their kids healthy food?
-- Paul Waldman