“The Food Network”: An Experiment

September 28, 2009 at 10:02 pm | Posted in Internet Sleuthiness | Leave a comment
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Let’s keep the New York Times Magazine kick going, shall we?

Last July, Michael Pollan wrote the cover article for the Times magazine, a fascinating and thoughtful examination of the fact that the rise in the popularity of food television (read: “The Food Network”) has accompanied the decline in home cooking. One of the many observations Pollan makes in the article is that “The Food Network” is basically two channels: during the day it’s the cooking-instruction-show-filled “Food Network: In the Kitchen,” but at night it becomes “Food Network: Nighttime,” where it’s not about learning how to cook, but testosterone-fueled competition—think “Chopped,” “Iron Chef,” and, though it airs on Bravo, “Top Chef.” Pollan also points out that, in general, the “Food Network” has shifted from making people want to cook, to making people want to eat. The types of commercials shown even during the ostensibly-instructional “In the Kitchen” shows exemplify this shift, and so today, while watching an hour of “Food Network” programming, I decided to put Pollan’s hypothesis to the test. I watched a 5:30 pm episode of “Down Home with the Neeleys,” and a 6 pm episode of “Paula’s Best Dishes,” and this is a list of all the commercials I saw (not counting the 16 ads for “Food Network” shows):

Non-Food Ads

  • Almay makeup
  • The Glass Doctor
  • The State of California
  • Some show on the “National Geographic” channel
  • Libman mops
  • Armstrong Floors (x2)
  • Mancini’s Sleepworld
  • The Floor Store
  • Nationwide Insurance
  • Asics shoes
  • The military (what exactly IS the target audience here??)
  • Chico’s
  • L’Oreal
  • Tide Cold Water
  • Traveler’s Insurance
  • Glade Candles
  • Comcast
  • Ford Fusion
  • Senokot (some kind of OTC drug…?)

Food-Related Ads

  • Olive Garden
  • Starkist Tuna Creations (seasoning packets for tuna fish)
  • V8 boxed soups
  • Edible Arrangements (x2)
  • Chow Mein microwavable noodle bowls
  • Diet Coke (the one featuring FN’s own Tom Colicchio)
  • FoodNetwork.com
  • Hershey’s Kisses
  • Sunsweet prunes
  • Joe’s Crab Shack
  • Hefty one-zip plastic bags

Not only are there more advertisements for non-food products than those related to food (19 to 12, to be exact), but not one of the food ads was about cooking. They were either hawking premade snacks, Sandra Lee-esque meal short cuts—don’t even get me started on that woman—like the Chow Mein bowls, or restaurants. The only thing that was even sort of related to cooking was FoodNetwork.com, where you can access the recipes you see on afternoon programming… among many other things entirely unrelated to cooking. My little experiment was, let’s face it, highly unscientific, but based on one random hour of afternoon programming, I’d say Michael Pollan is totally correct.

[ image from Jaunted.com ]

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