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. 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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  2. 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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  3. 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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  4. 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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  5. 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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  6. 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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  7. 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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  8. 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:

      Brent—

      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:

        James–

        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:

        James–

        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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