Get ready to get mad at me.
You know that Similac Formula commercial everyone is raving about? The one that I got in my inbox as, “OMG this commercial will make you cry?” The one showing we are all in a mommy war about who’s a better mom and if we all just band together and stop judging, we can literally save lives as well as our fragile social structure?
Random factoid: I was at that park with my kids the day this commercial was filmed. True story. They shut down a huge section where we normally play and I was annoyed. Little did I know how much more annoyed I would be when the ad came out!
Disclaimer: I am a Certified Lactation Educator Counselor who agrees with the World Health Organization and every other global health organization about breastfeeding: it is the normal way to feed humans and it’s something women should be supported in, taught how to manage, and accommodated to achieve. That being said, I also believe that artificial baby milk (how many lactation instructors refer to it) is sometimes necessary. I am grateful it exists. I was trained to know when and how to use formula.
I know not everyone breastfeeds, and I know some people don’t want to and don’t like when people say breast is best. I know all of that and I know that many people struggled to breastfeed and were heartbroken they could not do it. My heart goes out to those people, and I hope this doesn’t make everyone think I believe you are only a good mom if you breastfeed. I don’t want to open that wound up, I promise.
Here is why this ad makes me mad.
1. The ad perpetuates stereotypes and then claims to knock them down. But mostly it reinforces a war against people Western culture deems it appropriate to knock down: people not doing what “everyone” is doing. In this way, breastfeeding moms and cloth diapering moms are the enemies of a war, which the ad claims to end.
2. The ad shows breastfeeding as “just another choice,” ignoring that it is the medically recommended way to feed human babies. It’s not the same as cloth versus disposable diaper choices or deciding which baby shampoo to use. This commercial undermines medical and scientific fact under the guise of “It’s all the same, don’t judge. And if you do, you are the bad mom.”
3. The ad reinforces negative stereotypes of breastfeeding moms, but doesn’t do the same for formula moms. A new mom is shown fumbling about as if breastfeeding is so hard, and all of the breastfeeding moms are covered up by those “tents”…that’s the picture we are shown of what breastfeeding even is. How many moms actually use those tents? I wonder what little girls–or boys–who see this ad would think about breastfeeding. I suppose the sponsor of this doesn’t care what people think of breastfeeding, because they are out to sell a product, which leads to how…
4. This ad exemplifies unethical marketing. An excellent piece I read about this ad by Maria Andrusiak Morland defined unethical marketing as this: “the outward product or message of an ad does not match the underlying rhetorical and persuasive techniques, analogies and metaphors that construct the presentation choices in the advertisement.”
Bingo. This is not an altruistic company out to end the mommy wars, which would be a lovely thing to do. They are out there to sell formula and the very act of selling formula undermines breastfeeding.
Do we need formula available in hospitals and for doctors to use? Of course. But this company is not interested in ending mommy wars or making the world better. There are interested in selling their product.
Do you buy it?