Monthly Archives: May 2014

The Truth in Advertising

Quick. What’s your favorite part of watching the Super Bowl? Chances are that if you are not a football junkie or living in the city of one of the participating teams, you said the commercials. In my house, it is during the commercial breaks that all conversations stop, the volume is turned up and all sets of eyes are directed to the television. And with companies paying up to $4 million for 30 seconds of air time, you hope that other homes around the country are giving as much attention. That’s a lot of money riding on your advertising team’s ability to get the message across. Generally, the ads fall into two categories: funny or compassionate.  These types of ads are the ones that are the topic of conversation at the water cooler the next day. Other ads fail miserably and leave us wondering why and how $4 million was spent on what we just watched. On days other than Super Sunday, television commercials in our house usually get muted but there are still a few that stand out, for reasons either good or bad. This past week, two advertisements, one on TV and the other printed, left us both laughing and shaking our heads in disbelief.

Charmin

 

 

First, the funny. The other night, we were winding down the day by watching something on the television. It may have been a playoff game, it could have been the Disney channel, it doesn’t really matter. During a commercial of whatever it was that we were watching, the Charmin Bears made an appearance. The Charmin Bears are a cartoon mom and child bear talking about “cleaning up after themselves” using a better brand of toilet paper. It’s a clever play on a saying that questions a bear’s choice to perform a bodily function in a wooded area (c’mon, I’m not going to print it…this is a family blog). During this particular commercial, the mom bear told her baby bear to “enjoy the go”. Suddenly, out of the blue, Cam busts out laughing. Not a chuckle but a from the gut expression of joviality. I turned my attention to the ad and when the logo “enjoy the go” flashed across the screen, a second round of laughter started. It was infectious and soon we were all laughing. I thought we were laughing at the expression on the baby bear’s face but then Cam revealed the reason that he found it funny. He said, “Obviously they’re not Celiacs”. He wasn’t laughing at the commercial; he was laughing at the absurdity of the slogan for someone with his condition. So many times prior to his diagnosis, “enjoying” was probably never a word that came to his mind during his daily episodes. When subject to a gluten attack, the look on his face is not one that I would describe as “full of fondness”. The ad was funny but, to Cam, not for the reasons that the advertising company wanted it to be. They missed the mark but not nearly as bad as what I came across the next evening.

I was browsing through web sites, looking for gluten free tips, information and whatever I could get my hands on to help with our meal planning for the week. I’m not sure what site I was on when I came across an article, talking about the new “gluten sensitive” menu of a semi-national chain restaurant. I didn’t even have to read one word when my mouth dropped open. The picture with the article was this one.

Salad

 

 

 

Really? You are writing an article and advertising a new “gluten sensitive” menu and this is the picture you use? This one? The one with the breadstick?!? Once I overcame my disbelief, I took a closer look. There was a description under the picture that said that the gluten free version of this salad did not come with the bread stick or the ranch dressing or the tortilla strips. This disclaimer was marked with an asterisk and featured in small, italicized font. I honestly could not bring myself to read the rest of the article. It may have sung the praises of this new, “healthier choice” menu but, to me, it lost all credibility with the posting of this picture. I don’t know who’s fault it is. Maybe it was the author of the article thinking that the caption would make everything better. Maybe it was the stock photo provided by the restaurant and a sign of someone not taking the time to use their smart phone to snap a picture of a true gluten free salad. Both are to blame for not understanding the importance of advertising behind the gluten free movement. So many people still believe that gluten free is a fad diet and they are not aware that foods, such as the one pictured, can cause severe reactions to my son and other Celiac patients. Maybe this is the only article that these people will read about gluten sensitivities and the opportunity to promote the lifestyle is lost behind a picture that depicts blatant cross-contamination. As a society, we put way too much trust into what we read, hear and see. People who are under-educated to a cause will make truths out of whatever they are provided. It is our responsibility to make sure that this information that we are promoting is correct. To not do this is detrimental to everything that we are trying to achieve.

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A Day of Remembering

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One of my friends posted an interesting comment on Facebook yesterday concerning Memorial Day. To paraphrase what he said, he didn’t remember this day having as much significance when he was growing up as it seems to have today. He wondered if social media has given this important holiday more of a voice than what it used to have. He goes on to state that, if this is the case, it is one very good thing in a sea of bad things that social media has brought into focus. Reflecting on my childhood, I have to agree with him. I can recall highlights of a local parade being shown on the nightly news and I vaguely remember seeing ceremonies at places such as The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier but I also don’t remember the patriotism expressed as it is now through a variety of media. I looked on my Facebook page, admittedly not a social media platform that I use a lot (I only have 87 friends and I think that’s too many), and I counted the number of tributes posted to our soldiers and troops since midnight last night. Removing the advertisements, out of the 29 posts from my friends, 9 of these were Memorial Day related. That’s 31% of the posts that I received. Not a bad percentage. Were this many people talking about Memorial Day as a day of remembrance 20 years ago or was it known more as the long holiday weekend to kick of the summer and have a barbecue? My memories trend towards the latter.

Now, our family was not a hard core military family but we did have people that served our country. My dad was in the Army (as was my father-in-law). My grandfather was a Navy man. My cousin also served some time in the Navy and one of my cousins is now actively enrolled in the Air Force. Nobody was a “military brat” but we all knew someone who served or who was enlisted. But, as a kid, Memorial Day held significance because it was the day that the summer pools usually opened and we went to my grandparents for a picnic. As a society, events such as 9/11 and the two recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have rekindled our feelings of patriotism but today is proof that when united behind a cause, social media is very effective and an important barometer as to what is going on in our world today.

For Cam’s story, social media has been the driving force in education and awareness. We understand that the use of technology and the resulting communication avenues that are created are unprecedented. As we wind down Celiac Awareness Month, look at all the things that have come from our social media interactions.

  • We just sent in our final forms for Cam’s gluten-free week at Camp Kanata; an opportunity provided to us through a Facebook contest.
  • Our magical night at the Final Four with unspeakable compassion from a complete stranger who was sympathetic to our cause above 78,000 other customers. This story was shared by numerous strangers on Facebook.
  • The story of Cam’s journey is being read worldwide. Think about that. Growing up, I had a pen pal in France that I spoke with for a summer. Yesterday, my son’s fight for Celiac Awareness was viewed in places such as Australia, the United Kingdom and Bolivia.
  • A relationship with a fellow Celiac, who happens to be a professional race car driver, all because of a simple Twitter post.
  • Cam being featured in a gluten free calendar. Yep, he’s officially a pin-up at 13.
  • Over 500 followers of his story on Twitter in less than 5 months.

These statistics do not include all of the wonderful people that we have met these first nine months in our Celiac journey. For Cam to see firsthand the generosity and good that exists in people has been one of the best lessons to come out of all of this. Yes, terrible things can come from social media and if you take the time to look at comment boards or any application where someone is provided a voice, you can see/read that ignorance is still alive and stronger than ever. But used in the right way, such as with this Memorial Day holiday, what we have access to today can work wonders.

God bless to all of our troops; current, past and future. Know that we appreciate what you do, not just today, but every day.

 

It’s Working!

At times, it can be frustrating. You feel that spreading the word about a disease or a condition is going to make a difference and you try to educate at every opportunity. You pour your time and efforts into advocacy, hoping to see changes that will benefit those who you are fighting for. You have a passion and a belief that affects you directly and you use every means possible to put your soul out there for the world to see. And then, after a three minute segment from a TV personality that has now been seen on YouTube by over 2 million people, you feel beaten. Your confidence is tattered. Every step that you have taken moving forward seems worthless because the distance you need to go just got longer.

I just described what many in the gluten free community have experienced in the past couple of weeks. From late night TV to “unfounded” scientific reports diminishing the idea of sensitivities and intolerance, gluten free has taken a beating this month. And what doesn’t seem right about it is that it’s Celiac Awareness Month. During a time that we should be spreading the word and pressing for changes, we are busy picking up the pieces and doing damage control. Well, I’m happy to say that I’m here to change the momentum. Something happened recently with Cam that is as bright as any silver lining that you have ever seen. It shows us that what we do is not falling on deaf ears. It shows that what we do is being heard loud and clear.

This past Monday, Cam came home from school and, when asked how his day was, said that “something really cool” had happened. As I’ve mentioned in the past, this is surprising because usually I only get a one word response summarizing his eight hours away from home. He went on to describe an event that happened in his math class that day. From my understanding, his teacher’s birthday was the prior weekend and a couple of the girls in the class decided to bake the teacher cookies. Personally, this makes me feel bad as I have had some really great teachers in the past (especially in the 7th grade) and at the time the thought never crossed my mind to provide them with baked goods. The girls brought the cookies into the class for everyone to share. Cam has learned from school lunches, breakfasts and other functions to politely decline the food being offered to him to reduce his risk of being glutened. This time, he didn’t have to. The girls gave him two, individually-wrapped, gluten free cookies that they had purchased from Whole Foods and brought in just for him. They had made an effort to include him. I’m not sure if the teacher had any involvement in this or not and, frankly, it doesn’t matter either way. If she did, kudos to the teacher for listening to our concerns and looking out for our son. If not, good for those girls for thinking forward and showing compassion for Cam. It gives my wife and I hope that the dating years aren’t going to be as difficult as we think that they are. The cherry on top of this story is that due to the baked cookies being slightly overcooked, Cam ended up sharing his gluten free cookies with some of the class and it was determined that they tasted better than the ones with gluten.

So maybe there is more than just a silver lining here. Maybe this is a bright beacon of light shining on a community that needs it right now. Here’s an example of a younger generation understanding the needs of others and providing for it rather than making fun of it. Here’s an opportunity taken and a goal achieved in showing that gluten free food isn’t terrible and can be as good as, if not better, than your standard baked goods. It’s a “cool” story like this that helps us pick up our battered confidence, dust it off and continue to spread the word. For what we are doing is important and it’s working.