Epitaph ‘He tried to improve the world, one thermometer at a time’

Soon after Sorenne started at Junction Park State School, I started volunteering in the tuck shop, prepping foods for a few hundred kids on Fridays.

I put in some time, but then politics overtook my food safety nerdiness so I stopped.

But not before I left about 10 Comark tip-sensitive digital thermometers and advised, use them frequently.

While cooking breakfast this morning for 120 school kids, I ran into my friend, Dave, who is currently running the tuck shop, and he told me the thermometers get a regular workout each week, he had to change some batteries last week, and he took one home for cooking.

Now imagine that a tip-sensitive digital thermometer could be used to harness user data (and sell product).

Sapna Maheshwari of The New York Times writes that most of what we do — the websites we visit, the places we go, the TV shows we watch, the products we buy — has become fair game for advertisers. Now, thanks to internet-connected devices in the home like smart thermometers, ads we see may be determined by something even more personal: our health.

This flu season, Clorox paid to license information from Kinsa, a tech start-up that sells internet-connected thermometers that are a far cry from the kind once made with mercury and glass. The thermometers sync up with a smartphone app that allows consumers to track their fevers and symptoms, making it especially attractive to parents of young children.

The data showed Clorox which ZIP codes around the country had increases in fevers. The company then directed more ads to those areas, assuming that households there may be in the market for products like its disinfecting wipes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends disinfecting surfaces to help prevent the flu or its spread.

Kinsa, a San Francisco company that has raised about $29 million from venture capitalists like Kleiner Perkins since it was founded in 2012, says its thermometers are in more than 500,000 American households. It has promoted the usefulness of its “illness data,” which it says is aggregated and contains no identifying personal information before being passed along to other companies.

It is unique, Kinsa says, because it comes straight from someone’s household in real time. People don’t have to visit a doctor, search their symptoms on Google or post to Facebook about their fever for the company to know where a spike might be occurring.

“The challenge with Google search or social media or mining any of those applications is you’re taking a proxy signal — you’re taking someone talking about illness rather than actual illness,” said Inder Singh, the founder and chief executive of Kinsa. Search queries and social media can also be complicated by news coverage of flu season, he said, while data from the C.D.C. is often delayed and comes from hospitals and clinics rather than homes.

The so-called internet of things is becoming enmeshed in many households, bringing with it a new level of convenience along with growing concerns about privacy.

Clorox used that information to increase digital ad spending to sicker areas and pull back in places that were healthier. Consumer interactions with Clorox’s disinfectant ads increased by 22 percent with the data, according to a Kinsa Insights case study that tracked performance between November 2017 and March of this year. That number was arrived at by measuring the number of times an ad was clicked on, the amount of time a person spent with the ad and other undisclosed metrics, according to Vikram Sarma, senior director of marketing in Clorox’s cleaning division.

Being able to target ads in this way is a big shift from even seven years ago, when the onset of cold and cough season meant buying 12 weeks of national TV ads that “would be irrelevant for the majority of the population,” Mr. Sarma said. The flu ultimately reaches the whole country each year, but it typically breaks out heavily in one region first and then spreads slowly to others.

While social media offered new opportunities, there has been “a pretty big lag” between tweets about the flu or flulike symptoms and the aggregation of that data for marketers to use, he said.

“What this does is help us really target vulnerable populations where we have a clear signal about outbreaks,” Mr. Sarma said.

Imagine using similar for data for people cooking dinner tonight.

This is what we’re having (above, right; Chapman, about those thermometers?).

Sick sells; gross ads disgust consumers into action

Science is only now catching up with the late 1970s wisdom of Herbert “Herb” Ruggles Tarlek, Jr.

During one episode, Herb, the outrageously dressed salesthingy on the awesome television series, WKRP in Cincinnati, proclaims that tasteless sells. That’s why he’s so good at advertising.

USA Today reports a five-year study to be released Tuesday by Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business found that, again and again, advertisements that try to simply "scare" consumers into actions — such as buying protective sunscreens or avoiding dangerous drugs — are far less effective than ads that also "disgust" consumers into taking the action. The best way to elicit disgust: Display totally gross images (see our infosheets).

"If you really want to get people to act, disgust is much more powerful than fear," says Andrea Morales, an associate marketing professor at Arizona State University who oversaw the study to be published in the June issue of the Journal of Marketing Research. "It may seem counterintuitive, but it works."

Perhaps that’s why consumers have seen a recent slew of commercials with high gross-out factors.

A TV spot from the New York City Department of Health featured images of a soft drink turning into gobs of fat as a guy gulps it down. (Department officials say sugar-rich beverage consumption dropped 12% after the campaign.) A recent Febreze TV spot shows blindfolded volunteers sitting in an ultra-filthy room — but fooled into thinking that they smell something pleasant, thanks to the household odor killer. And a commercial for Colgate Total toothpaste shows a mouthful of icky-looking germs.

From 2006 to 2011, Morales and her colleagues oversaw five different studies. In each case, ads with the highest gross-out factor elicited far more cases of viewer willingness to take action than those without.

In one study, 155 undergraduate students viewed an anti-methamphetamine print ad showing a young man whose face is covered with open sores. It scored far more consumer interest than an ad with the same written copy, but which replaced the photo of the pock-marked young man with one of a coffin.

While consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow agrees with the premise — disgust attracts attention — she’s not sure it always works. "Disgust is a hard-wired self-preservation emotion designed to keep us from doing things like eating spoiled food," she says. But, she asks, "Will our protective reaction against assaults of any kind cause us to avoid paying any attention to the ad?"

Runs from the border is more accurate; Taco-Mystery-Restaurant-A Bell has new ad slogan

"Live Mas on the Toilet” should be Taco Bell’s new catchphrase, to replace “Runs From the Border.”

Mas is apparently Spanish for more, and the new investment in advertising with the Live Mas slogan to replace Think Outside the Bun, accurately expresses the chain’s commitment to food safety.

A Taco Bell spokesman told Ad Age that the new slogan demonstrates the chain’s "commitment to value, quality, relevance and an exceptional experience," and that it heralds the firm’s move from a "food as fuel" approach to "food as experience" and lifestyle model.

Other slogans considered but rejected:

• cheap calories with produce that may make you barf;

• Taco Bell – 4 out of 5 epidemiologists train with us;

• you may barf, but students still love us; and

• don’t eat poop, eat somewhere else.

Coles cashes in on chicken myth; responding to consumer perceptions rather than leading

An Australian supermarket campaign promoting hormone-free chicken has been called dodgy by a leading consumer watchdog.

In-the-better-late-than-never category, Australians are finally speaking out about a Coles Supermarkets advertising promo that markets fear rather than food safety.

According to industry groups and consumer watchdog Choice the supermarket giant is trying to capitalize on the urban myth that chickens are given hormones to speed growth.

Adding hormones to Australian poultry was outlawed in the early 1960s but the myth of pumped-up chickens has persisted, said Dr Andreas Dubs, the executive director of the Australian Chicken Meat Federation.

Choice spokesman Christopher Zinn said,

"You can’t have hormone-free chicken unless there are chickens that are pumped up on hormones. I think it’s a little dodgy. It’s true, but it’s like saying it’s plutonium-free or cyanide-free because it’s suggesting that anything that doesn’t have that label on it might have that."

A Coles spokesman said the supermarket was just countering the myth.

"Chicken in Australia has not been treated with hormones for over 40 years. However, there is still a widespread misconception among customers that they do. In fact in July last year, chicken producer Steggles commissioned a Newspoll study among 1000 people that showed that 76 per cent still believed that hormones and/or steroids were used in chicken production."

So why isn’t Coles leading the formation of public perception instead of blindly following? Because there’s a buck to be made.

Would you really buy a used car from these people? Data needed to go along with egg safety advertizing

Advertising Age reports the American Egg Board has taken out full-page ads in major newspapers including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today to try and tamper down rising fears around America’s favorite breakfast food.

The ads call attention to the fact that "the potentially affected eggs, which make up less than 1% of all U.S. eggs, have been removed from store shelves" and end with the reminder that "thoroughly cooked means thoroughly safe." Consumers are driven from the print ads to a website, eggsafety.org.

What the ads do not talk about is risks of cross-contamination, as anyone who has cracked an egg into a bowl knows about.

Kevin Burkum, senior VP-marketing for the American Egg Board, told Ad Age the messages are "aimed at educating consumers on the safety of eggs and how to properly cook them." He added that the organization is also looking at expanding the print campaign to radio and digital efforts to get the message out.

As soon as any group talks about educating consumers, they’ve given up.

Instead, the egg folks should treat consumers like they may have a few functioning neurons, talk about salmonella testing data and sell safety directly to consumers at retail.

Eat Me Daily: Creepy Chinese food safety ads

The folks over at Eat Me Daily have unearthed three food safety advertisements produced by the Beijing Women & Children’s Development Foundation.

“(They) are nicely executed but super-creepy: Kids enjoying themselves in playgrounds built out of giant food, etc. But on closer inspection, the pizza slices are topped with shards of glass, the hamburger is a scorpion-burger, sushi is infested with bugs, the jello is spiked with thumbtacks, a beehive stands in for a lollipop, and a landmine is disguised as a melon. The tagline, as translated by
Ads of the World, "Do you really know about his food?"

I have asked a Chinese language colleague to try and translate the text in the adverts.

Addendum, from a Chinese instructor at Kansas State University:

The direct translation does sound like something else going on behind the scene (worries under line)

First one: His world is really safe?
Second:  His world is really worry free?
Third:  His world did you see/watch carefully?

Rebuilding trust in all things peanut: advertizing, actions or both?

The National Peanut Board is joining Jif and Peter Pan in attempting to save American newspapers by investing in advertizing to woo back skeptical consumers.

In a press release and full-page letter in USA Today on Wednesday (thanks, Margaret – dp) peanut producer pooh-bahs announced they will set up shop in Vanderbilt Hall in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal March 4 and 5 to meet consumers, answer questions and give away samples of peanuts, peanut butter and other peanut items. The event kicks off the farmers’ efforts nationally to rebuild consumer confidence in products made with the crops they grow.

Roger Neitsch, Texas peanut farmer and chairman of the National Peanut Board — the research and promotion board funded by peanut growers, said,

“No one is more deeply disturbed by the recent salmonella crisis than the thousands of USA peanut farmers and their families. We may be peanut farmers, but we also are fathers, mothers, sons and daughters — and consumers. So we understand and share the concerns being experienced these days by families across America.”

But is recruiting celebrity chefs and athletes, while portraying farmers as producers of all things safe, really enough?

Noted science-and-society type, Dorothy Nelkin, noted in 1995 that, efforts to convince the public about the safety and benefits of new or existing technologies — or in this case the safety of the food supply — rather than enhancing public confidence, may actually amplify anxieties and mistrust by denying the legitimacy of fundamental social concerns. The public expresses a much broader notion of risk, one concerned with, among other characteristics, accountability, economics, values and trust.

As I’ve said before, the best food producers, processors, retailers and restaurants should go above and beyond minimal government and auditor standards and sell food safety solutions directly to the public. The best organizations will use their own people to demand ingredients from the best suppliers; use a mixture of encouragement and enforcement to foster a food safety culture; and use technology to be transparent — whether it’s live webcams in the facility or real-time test results on the website — to help restore the shattered trust with the buying public.

The makers of Jif and Peter Pan have already gone on record saying they will not disclose their own food safety test results.

Nelkin, D. 1995. Forms of intrusion: comparing resistance to information technology and biotechnology in the USA in Resistance to New Technology ed. by M. Bauer. Cambridge University Press, New York. pp. 379-390.