Franks and Focus Groups

PR notes on the Armour Hot Dog jingle

 

I recently came across an alarming statistic: Americans eat an average of 60 hot dogs every year. Not “American families” – Americans. If that’s true, you should be 35 hot dogs into the year by now (and well on your way to an all-elastic waistband wardrobe).

Don’t get me wrong – I love a good hot dog. I’m just not sure when this meteoric rise in popularity (and subsequent consumption) came along in America’s relationship with the meaty treat. Maybe Armour is responsible for catapulting hot dogs to the top of Americans’ list of favorite summertime foods, immortalizing them in the pre-PC jingle of yesteryear:

Hot dogs, Armour hot dogs
What kind of kids eat Armour Hot Dogs?
Fat kids, skinny kids, kids who climb on rocks,
Tough kids, sissy kids, even kids with chicken pox
Love hot dogs, Armour Hot Dogs
The dog kids love to bite!

The jingle, which leaves almost no one unoffended by today’s standards, did the trick; it sold a lot of hot dogs in the ’60s and ’70s. Our national love of hot dogs might not be as far-reaching if this jingle were proposed by an aspiring jingle writer today. I think the advertising agency copy editor’s comments would go like this:

Hot dogs, Armour hot dogs I like this – good thinking to put the client’s name in the first line!

What kind of kids eat Armour Hot Dogs? Great reinforcement of client’s name, but do we want to limit our image of the consumer to kids only? Should we add career moms? Single dads? Multi-generational families? This might be a question to throw out to a focus group. What rhymes with “blended or otherwise non-traditional family unit”?

Fat kids, skinny kids, kids who climb on rocks, Whoa, whoa, whoooooooaaaa – do we really want to focus on physical attributes? Labels = body shaming. Also, if we single out “kids who climb on rocks,” will that alienate kids who don’t have access to rocks due to geographical limitations that they can’t control? Is rock climbing even still a thing? It seems dangerous, and we can’t promote a dangerous activity in connection with the product because … class action.

Tough kids, sissy kids, even kids with chicken pox  Hold up. “Tough” sounds aggressive, like we’re promoting violence, and “sissy” conjures images of bullying and lifestyle intolerance. We can’t go there. I would also leave out any reference to the varicella-zoster virus. Too risky to make a subliminal connection between the consumption of the client’s product and a virus. Plus, no matter where the target audience stands on childhood vaccinations, we can’t ask a child actor with chicken pox (#contagious) to appear on camera and expose his or her private medical issue and risk feeling ostracized. HIPAA and all that.

Love hot dogs, Armour Hot Dogs Good – repeat client’s name at the end of the jingle! But “love” hot dogs? That’s pretty strong. The typical American eats 60 of these a year. I’d say they’re “very much in like” with hot dogs. “Love” might be 100 hot dogs, but let’s toss this to R&D to confirm.

The dog kids love to bite! Again, we don’t want to promote violence or any aggressive behavior (such as biting) that might be misconstrued as an invitation to assault someone or something with one’s teeth.

Do we want to use the last line to recommend that parents/caretakers/legal guardians cut the hot dog into small pieces before serving to young children to prevent a choking hazard? What rhymes with that?

 


 

It’s summer in the 405 – make the most of it! Look for my new book, 100 Things to Do in Oklahoma City Before You Die, at a bookstore near you or on my website, lauren-roth.com.