Guns and Peanuts

Saw this ad for peanuts in the subway this morning. It was doubly jarring. First, because I am not used to seeing the word “peanut” in public unless it is followed by the word “-free,” as in “peanut-free school,” “peanut-free party,” “peanut-free environment,” etc. And second: because the kid in the ad is holding a couple of toy guns! Many parents I know don’t let their kids play with any sort of toy gun, ever. (I happen to not be one of those parents.) As a result, their kids — their boys, mostly, to be clear — just make guns out of sticks, rulers, broomsticks, pens, fingers, etc.

I guess if you’re making an ad for one product that people are squeamish about, you might as well double down and go for the full effect.


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  1. Justin says:

    Or perhaps the part of the country where most peanuts are grown is also where people don’t find guns to be particularly jarring?

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    • nrojb says:

      He saw it in a subway… in NYC…where few peanuts are grown. Also, why would you advertise peanuts to people who grow, or know someone who grows, peanuts? Surely they would be self interested enough to already be buying them?

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    • Bob says:

      My guess is that the advertising guy is a Gen Yer like myself who associated Super Soakers with Super Food. Obviously this would be lost on the majority of people who did not grow up in the 90s always wanting the next more powerful Constant Pressure System (CPS)1500…

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  2. mikemenn says:

    I wonder if America is broken up into those who live in Big Cities (New York, Chicago, LA) and the rest of America. I just find this as weird advertising. But maybe you big city folks are somewhat repulsed by the rest of us in normal-land.

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    • James says:

      I’ve also noticed in recent weeks that the country is broken into major media – which writes headlines & articles expressing the opinion that anyone supporting the right to bear arms is a lackey of the evil NRA – and the rest of us. Really, their opinions seem so disconnected from those of anyone I know (very few of whom are all that conservative) that I can’t help wondering if they aren’t sourcing their material from an alternate universe.

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    • brian warden says:

      “normal land”? Or as us city slickers like to call it, “the land that time forgot.”

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  3. AJ from GA says:

    It’s…just a squirt gun. Are we really this oversensitive?

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    • Enter your name... says:

      Yes, we are. At least, in my circles, upper-middle-class mothers with university diplomas and zero family members in the military since WWII really are this oversensitive.

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      • J1 says:

        Oddly, the same demographic that thinks vaccinations are bad.

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      • Enter your name... says:

        The vaccination issue seems to depend on whether that university degree is in hard sciences or not.

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      • J1 says:

        “The vaccination issue seems to depend on whether that university degree is in hard sciences or not.”

        Apologies for not including that. That’s been my observation as well.

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    • Joe J says:

      Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  4. DC says:

    Looks like he’s about to jump into a pool also. Probably lined with lead.

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  5. Doug says:

    I have much dislike for trying to place artificial limits on children’s interests, seems too much like over-protection, maybe bordering on brain-washing. I’ve known people who forbid anyone to talk about death around their kids, that just baffles me.

    And it seems like it’s a focus on minutiae — while your busy keeping plastic guns away from from your boys (and they’re busy using sticks and fingers instead), parents down the street are teaching their kids all their worst prejudices.

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  6. Brandon says:

    Water guns? The horror.

    Give me a break.

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  7. MJW says:

    It’s a kid playing with a couple of squirt guns. Advertising a natural and healthy product. I understand that some have allergies to peanuts, but obviously their target market do not. Anyone having issues with this really needs to re-evaluate the battles worth fighting, because this isn’t one of them… sigh…

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  8. MA Man says:

    Sorry state of affairs that we find peanuts and waterguns “jarring”, and they make us “squeamish”! I get that peanut allergies are terrible, and we want to teach our kids to resist violence… but seriously? Peanuts and water guns!! Last week I read a story about a grade-school boy suspended for chewing his cookie into the shape of a gun. It seems like we’re heading toward censorship rather than actually teaching kids right from wrong!
    What if we let them have their peanuts and waterguns but teach them to make good decisions in the video games and movies they watch!

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  9. Pawe? Gola says:

    OK, I can see why the guns might be controversial — but what’s the problem with peanuts again? I come from Europe and have honestly no idea.

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    • Joe j says:

      Personally I see the opposite.
      Peanut allergies are rare, (less than 1% of the population but growing) but are pretty severe when they occur, and it doesn’t take much to trigger a reaction.

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  10. padugan says:

    The only thing “jarring” about this ad is that you found it jarring enough to write about it. that speaks volumes as to the softening of America. we’ve become a nation of pansies. How is it the bloody images from Boston were not “jarring” but a child obviously playing and having fun is? We are in some very very serious trouble here. Anyone who thinks this image is jarring should be removed from civilization immediately until we can determine what illness is effecting their brain.

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    • phil persinger says:


      Perhaps what Dubner found jarring was the juxaposition of the word “peanut” with the image of toy guns in the poster. Advertisements do this all the time: provide surreal contrasts amongst and within the neurologically-separate categories of words, images and actions.
      The questions remain: is the thought and research behind the ad based on any real knowledge and is all the money and effort invested in this endeavor results in any of the intended results?

      And my question to you: how is American indifference to the images of the victims of terrorism evidence of “softening?” I would have thought that indifference would be evidence to the contrary.

      And a further question: why is Dubner’s obvious amusement over the poster the cause of your wanting to remove him from society? Did you not see the humor, or am I being too dense to see your humor?

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    • steve cebalt says:

      Hi Padugan: I’ve observed that anything light-hearted in this forum is dismissed by some people who are humor-impaired. They equate “intelligence” with “seriousness.” A “civilian” who recently posed a light-hearted idea about the government “fixing” sports games to pay down the deficit was crucified by a few humorless commenters who displayed their ignorance by not recognizing his light-hearted intent. You said Mr. Levitt “should be removed from civilization immediately until we can determine what illness is effecting their brain.” Because I am not humor-impaired, I recognize that your comment is hyperbole, perhaps intended to be humorous because it is so over-the-top. It’s not funny though. Someone needs to speak up and say that intelligence comes in many forms, including humor and light-hearted observations like this excellent topic. People who do not enjoy amusing, quirky observations on odd topics are in the wrong place.

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      • Steve Cebalt says:

        Correction: I meant Mr. Dubner, not Mr. Levitt. Apologies.

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      • phil persinger says:

        In everyone’s defense: humor, like a crocodile, lunges from hidden places. One often does not realize the encounter has even occurred until someone else points out the missing leg. I seem to have all my limbs right now, but I may feel differently about that in the morning….

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  11. Lauren says:

    I can understand maybe being put off by the guns a little bit…. even though they’re clearly just squirt guns, but I do find it odd that anyone would feel squeamish about seeing the word “peanut” in public. My 2 year old is allergic to peanuts, but I understand that most people aren’t, and for those people peanuts are a tasty, healthy, natural snack. I see nothing wrong with a peanut producer advertising their product.

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  12. Rick says:

    Not used to seeing the word peanuts? There are restaurants in my town where a bowl of un-shelled peanuts is served as a free appetizer. Just throw the shells on the floor. Not to mention the roadside stands along the highways just east of hear hawking boiled peanuts.

    Some of the best birthday parties we gave my kids were where everybody was turned out into the yard with a water gun and a bucket of water balloons.

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  13. hanmeng says:

    I think the association is intentional. By the way, according to Wikipedia, “The National Peanut Board is funded by a mandatory one percent assessment levied on all American peanut farmers’ crop values,” so even peanut farmers who don’t want to have anything to do with it are forced to support it.

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  14. Jon Dickenson says:

    Got to agree with comments here. The advert is a kid playing. And he’s advertising something that millions of us eat every day.
    It’s a non-story I’m afraid.

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  15. Seriously? says:

    Literally one of the dumbest things I’ve read in a long time. I wish I had that part of my life back

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  16. Neil_SM says:

    Guns don’t kill people. Children kill people with peanuts.

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  17. Kirsten Nelson says:

    I’m with you on the gun policy. Instead of forbidding them, we’ve had many discussions about gun safety. But peanut promotion on the other hand, that’s a bit sticker. The severity of peanut allergies in kids can be quite scary–far more than a squirt gun.

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  18. Ben says:

    I think it speaks volumes about the USA that an advert about peanuts could be jarring and borderline offensive?!

    And a kid holding water guns? Really?

    Completely speechless…

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  19. JR says:

    Maybe they’ve reasoned that the segment of the market which is squeamish over depictions of water guns overlaps heavily with the segment that already restricts their family’s diet to only non allergenic, low calorie, sugar free, fat free, gluten free, local, organic, vegan foods and can be written off as a non customer under all circumstances.

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  20. Nikki says:

    Oh boy, so sorry you had to endure the graphic image of potential water-squirting and a shameless description of peanuts being eaten. Your whole day must have been ruined.

    (Also, from across the ocean it very much looks like peanut butter jelly sandwiches are the crown jewel of American cuisine.)

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  21. Pdubble says:

    Your comment about most parents you know not letting their kids have guns proves the phrase I often say to be true: “I’m a liberal in Georgia, which makes me a centrist Republican in the rest of America.” Every kid here has more toy guns than they have school books, which may be part of the reason the murder rate is sky high and the illiteracy rate is about 25%. Still, I don’t think I would restrict toy guns, just make the kids read too!

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    • tmeier says:

      For reference the murder rate per 100,000 in Great Britain in 2011 was 1.2. though that’s a bit lower than the average over the last ten years. Several American states are about the same. New Hampshire and Vermont are 1.3, Minnesota is 1.4, Iowa is 1.5 . Georgia is 5.6 but if you look at the statistics state by state I think you will have to find some other explanation than simply the availability of guns. Murder may be slightly more common where it is more convenient and when someone decides to do murder guns are a more effective means but the desire to kill does not seem to be evenly distributed and it is far, far the greater factor.

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  22. Thomas says:

    According to the US’ NIH, 0.6% of children have a peanut allergy. One of my best friends has this problem and it can be very serious, but if that is an issue that concerns parents to the degree you imply it does Stephen, then I’m suspicious.

    Is it just becoming lazy diagnosis for physicians to fob concerned patents off with? Is there something about peanut farming that puts other allergens onto peanuts that cause reactions blamed on the peanut? I sometimes feel like parents almost like to have things to worry about so they can feel like they’re parenting, which means doctors can get away with it. Perhaps there’s a little bit of keeping up with the Joneses that comes with this.

    Sorry to ask dumb questions – I’m British and this is a rare thing to see (in line with the stats) and not something that enervates parents to the point of having to state that a school is nut-free. Mostly because the average primary school isn’t big enough to guarantee a peanut allergic being amongst the pupils.

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  23. Douglas says:

    The ivory tower: where peanuts and toy guns are products people are “squeemish” about. I’m so glad I don’t reside there. I don’t know how people with common sense endure it.

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    • tmeier says:

      Common sense has got to be up there with ‘humanitarian’ (meaning kind and compassionate) as the most poorly named human attribute. How many people do you know who really have common sense, meaning they are not influenced by pretension, fashion, group-think or other cultural impetus to irrationality?

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  24. brent says:

    This makes me wonder why the peanut biz advertises at all. It’s like advertising other ubiquitous staples such as milk. Hey freakonomics, why do they advertise at all, seems like throwing money away. We all know about peanuts.

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    • Phil Persinger says:


      The price of peanuts as a commodity has tripled more or less over the past few years. How this has affected the retail price is not clear and might not be much, but this (and the nut allergy issue) may have triggered a public-relations campaign to save the peanut’s reputation.

      But I agree with you that there is not much logic (and more than a touch of desperation) in the deployment of advertising. On the whole, it could be viewed as a conspiracy between advertising agencies and corporation marketing executives to create work for themselves. Perhaps we should look at the phenomenon as a private-sector jobs stimulus.

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      • Steve Cebalt says:

        Hi Phil: You are right on the money. “An ad man arrives at the office to find a mole-hill and has 8 hours to turn it into a mountain.” This ad appears to be from a trade association supporting members in the peanut industry, and the ad gives the association something to crow about to their paying members, who don’t mind this wasted ad expense because the cost is so widely distributed that no one cares.

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    • Clint says:

      I have to agree, this is a weird advertisement. It makes me wonder why there are marketing campaigns for industries that clearly do not need them. I saw a television adverstisement for my power company the other day (like I have a choice who I buy my power from).

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      • James says:

        Generally because there is a government-mandated product marketing board, which collects a tax on the product. Since the bureaucrats who rund the board have all that money rolling in, they have to spend some of it on visible things, like advertising, to justify their existence. As for instance the ads for generic milk, beef, eggs, etc.

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      • phil persinger says:


        Where do you get the idea that these marketing associations are “government-mandated?”

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      • James says:

        Oh, things like the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937, and state equivalents. Plus the fact that if these industry groups weren’t sanctioned by the government, it would seem (though IANAL) that they would be in violation of various anti-trust laws.

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      • phil persinger says:


        There’s a big difference between your initial “mandated” and your current “sanctioned.”

        Still, thanks for the research. And I agree with your original comment on bureaucrats, as long as it’s stipulated we apply it to those in both public and private sectors.

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  25. Steve Cebalt says:

    The only problem with this ad is weak execution of a trendy idea. The “superkid” theme is very widely used these days in advertising, to the point of becoming a cliche. You’ve seen images like this one:

    Super Food for kids with Super Power is the well-worn notion, but it’s just not particularly well done here.

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  26. Rick says:

    Semi-serious question. Are all these kids who have developed a peanut allergy over the past 30 years also allergic to other types of legumes like green peas? If not why not?

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  27. Gary says:

    What’s that graffiti comment in the upper left say?

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  28. John Grieve says:

    only in America!

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