Dressing Undressed

Here at The Food Frame we tend to jump at the defense of women in food advertising, and it’s pretty much always for a good reason – we see women being degraded, simplified, and slandered in an array of food advertisements across all forms of media. But we also need to look at the whole picture, the grand scheme…namely, the other sex. Just because women are more often than not the target of insensitive advertisements doesn’t mean we don’t see the objectification of men in ads as well. Kraft just came out with an ad campaign for their new line of products called Kraft Zesty Italian dressing.

Take a look at the two ads featured below; is it the dressing that seems harder to resist? I don’t think so. The first ad in this campaign shows a dark haired, scruffy-looking man in his underwear feeding himself a piece of spaghetti. He sits invitingly atop a wood table in the kitchen, next to a casually placed cutting board and bowl of pasta. The text – if you happened to notice it – says, “Once you go Italian, you’ll never go back.” This tiny print at the top right corner of the image is hardly the focal point of the ad – the viewer’s eyes are instantly drawn to the over-saturated white of the man’s underwear, followed by his perfectly sculpted (er, photoshopped) abs, then to his face, arms, and then, maybe just then, to the tag line. In the second ad, we see the same man in almost the same exact pose, except this time he’s lounging on what appears to be a table set for a romantic dinner for two. His bright white collared shirt is unbuttoned and he has a look of intrigue on his otherwise stoic face. The text featured in this ad says “The only thing better than dressing is undressing.”

There’s no denying that this ad campaign is eye-catching to say the very least, so in that sense, bravo Kraft, job well done. But what is it saying about men? Well, first and foremost, what’s most desirable to women is that a man has a tan, chiseled, flawless body. We could argue that advertisers perpetuate unrealistic depictions of the female body as well as the male body, but we’d also be making an argument that’s not exactly grounded in a cornucopia of proof. This is just one example of men in food advertising, and let me tell you, this alone was hard to find. I wanted to explore this topic with this post and intentionally set out to find examples of men in food advertising that were portrayed as sensationalized at the very least. This ad campaign was the best that I could find, and what’s somewhat more troubling is that through my research I stumbled upon a quote from a Kraft rep that says that the campaign is “targeted toward our salad dressings consumer, who we define as a mainstream foodie. They enjoy cooking and creative expression, and this campaign speaks to them in a way that recognizes she is an individual in addition to being a mom.”

I suppose if I was in a forgiving mood I could thank Kraft for recognizing that moms are more than, well, simply put – moms, but then I’d be acting under the presumption that that fact wasn’t common knowledge already. An “individual in addition to being a mom” doesn’t sit so well with me, and maybe that’s because I would put ‘mom’ in addition to being an individual. Then again, I’m not a mom so maybe that will change for me when I start my own family. Do you think that this ad necessarily connotes any notions that are inherently bad or good for either sex? Am I not giving men the same degree of respect that I tend to give women here on The Food Frame? I’m open to all thoughts.

NP 4/30

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The Real Last Supper

Convenience has become a part of modern life – smart phones with news updates, fast food chains on every corner, even E-Z passes on the highway – there’s no denying that we’ve become a little bit lazy. Some might argue that it’s made our day to day lives a heck of a lot easier, and I can really deny that. The question is, what exactly have we given up for this fast-paced lifestyle? When did this shift happen and why? This societal change didn’t exactly happen over night; there were many factors that went into the demise of this do-it-yourself mentality – including TV dinners.

This swift change from making food from scratch for every meal to sticking frozen food in a microwave actually wasn’t so swift after all. The earliest example of frozen meals can be seen all the way back in 1923, with the flash-freezing of fresh food by Clarence Birdseye. In 1949, Albert and Meyer Mernstein started selling dinners that were separated in aluminum trays – think cafeteria food with separate sections for your peas and carrots. This frozen-dinner phenomenon didn’t take off until 1954, with Swanson’s advertising campaign that capitalized on the new prevalence of television sets in homes. This in effect, put an end to family dinners.

Take a look at this ad from 1973, nearly twenty years after TV dinners made it into households across the country. This ad was featured in Family Circle, a popular American women’s magazine. This sheds some light onto what it was like in the home place back in the day – women were still the considered homemakers of the house. This ad features three different meals: ham dinner, 3-course fried chicken, and macaroni and cheese dinner. The most prominent copy in this ad is “Pep up TV dinners,” which also clues us in on the fact that TV dinners were on the rise, and that diversity in frozen food dinners options was in demand. Below that text, we see the following, “With a few deft touches you can enhance and glamorize handy TV dinners in a matter of minutes.” Clearly it was no secret that TV dinners weren’t exactly the most sought after meals of time – they lacked the appeal of good old-fashioned home-cooked meals.

The featured frozen dinners were there to save the day, “Simply by adding sauces, spices, herbs and garnishes to the tray-pack dinners on this page, you can turn out the tempting, eye-appealing meals opposite.” It’s not as if people decided that they didn’t care what they ate. Quite contrarily, this ad suggests that quality was still in question. However, what seemed to trump fine cuisine was TV – television sets had become the new source of entrainment, not “How was your day? What did you learn in school today?” Conversation dwindled as eyes focused on the tantalizing screen just feet away in their own homes, and with that came a desire to prepare food faster, so no one missed their 7 o-clock program.

Forty years later and these meals are still popular, except now we have pre-made pizza, weight-watching frozen meals, and lunchables. Who’s to blame here? Swanson for creating the first true frozen-dinner? Or Philo Farnsworth for inventing the TV? Both certainly contributed to the demise of the family dinner, and ultimately resulted in what we could now call, The Real Last Supper.

NP 4/23

Categories: advertising, comparison, past, present | Leave a comment

Millennials: Hungover

Have you seen The Hangover? If you’re in your early to late twenties, chances are you probably have. This Todd Phillips film came out in 2009 and was an instant box-office hit, with ticket sales that made it the tenth-highest-grossing film of the year with a worldwide gross of over $467 million. There are, of course, many factors that contributed to the success of The Hangover – from its humor, to its use of pop culture references, to the celebrities who starred in the film itself – it was destined for success, especially with the millennials.

According to millennials, their interest in music and pop culture is one of the top five things that makes them unique from other generations. Taco Bell is one fast-food chain that’s trying to target this audience by using that information, but they’re not the only ones. McDonald’s, the world’s “No. 1 fast-food chain the United States” sensed a lag with the millennials and is attempting to bridge that gap as well. According to the PRSA, “McDonald’s isn’t the only major marketer trying to reach millennials, as brands like Coke and Gatorade and industries from brewers to media companies struggle to understand this group…” Taco Bell is also reaching out to millennials by playing on their music and pop culture sensibilities. Take a look at this ad for the Cantina Steak Burrito featured below.

The commercial starts off with a baby-toting man exiting what appears to be an expensive hotel. Sound familiar? In The Hangover, a group of guy friends take a trip to Las Vegas for one last hoorah before one of them gets married, they too stay at a nice, fancy hotel. As he exits, Notorious B.I.G’s “Big Poppa” starts playing as he walks in slow-motion towards the camera. We see many slow-mo moments in The Hangover as well. The man in this commercial is not pushing a carriage or holding a baby in his arms – instead he has her strapped to his chest like a reverse-backpack. This image might look familiar to you if you’ve seen The Hangover, any commercial for the film, or perhaps even this action figure.

Take a look at the two images below, a screen shot from the Taco Bell commercial, and a shot from The Hangover…notice the similarity?

Screen shot 2013-04-18 at 11.26.00 AM

It’s no coincidence that Taco Bell is referencing The Hangover, and overall, I’d say the ad was extremely successful on a number of levels. The creators of this commercial picked up on subtle, yet memorable cues present throughout the film and strategically placed them in this thirty-second ad in order to frame the viewer’s experience They picked a movie that was clearly a great success, and capitalized on it’s favorability for the consumer – in other words, they had the millennial’s attention right from the get-go with the opening scene. With that being said, we do know that millennials already have a certain degree of distaste for fast food, so will this attempt convince this age group to buy food from Taco Bell? It’s hard to say.

What I can say with full confidence, is that even if you haven’t seen this movie, you’d probably get the reference anyways, which casts the net a little wider. The song that’s playing in the background also coincides with the music and pop culture dimension of millennials, as it references the Grammy nominated and Billboard Award-winning single from Biggie’s Ready to Die. This song has stood the test of time; it came out in 1995 (and was probably in regular rotation on the radio for those millennials on the older end of the spectrum), and has since been featured in several movies and television shows.

WP 4/19

Categories: advertising, children, present | Leave a comment

The Subway Sandwich Sitch

Celebrity endorsements are everywhere – they saturate the market with Photoshopped images of famous pop stars, actors, actresses, and athletes. They sell everything from CoverGirl products to credit cards. Most of these products are targeted towards a somewhat older audience, or at least an audience that could easily recognize who someone like Donald Trump is. By the way, he has his own line of steaks in case you were interested.

Most adults have the mental capacity to determine what products they want to buy because of the quality and value of the product itself, not because they see Rhianna eating/wearing/watching Product X. Yet, things tend to get turned upside down we talk about children as the target audience.

A few years ago there was a great deal of controversy surrounding Family Guy – was the show targeting children? Speculation suggested that because the program was rated TV-14, the target audience was 14 year olds, which obviously isn’t the case. That’s not really how the rating system works. This doesn’t necessarily insinuate that the target audience is 14 year-olds, let alone children who could be even younger than that.

That doesn’t mean we have nothing to worry about. Family Guy might be a show that references movies, jokes, and popular culture that are most relevant to people who grew up in the 80s, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t kids watching – it is a cartoon after all. I happen to know kids who watch the program and laugh happily at the jokes they don’t understand. Let’s not forget that slapstick humor still exists in the show in one form or another.

Let’s take a look at this Subway commercial. We see a familiar face here – the one and only Peter Griffin. The ad is rather simple in nature, it starts off with Peter reading from a paper while images of the delicious, savory Subway sandwich is being prepared in the background. He goes on to describe the “Subway Feast” and all of the ingredients involved in making it. The ad appears harmless, there are no direct plugs towards children, he doesn’t say anything offensive, and it’s overall pretty tasteful.

Here’s the problem: What happens when kids see a cartoon character – one that they like for no apparent reason because most of his jokes go way over their heads – advertising a product? They don’t know why they like Peter so much, they just do. What if they employed that same train of thought when it came to choosing what food products they want to eat? It seems to me that this is a situation where ignorance could breed more ignorance. This isn’t the child’s fault of course, but it could mean bad things for less favorable products than the “healthier fast food option,” otherwise known as Subway.

Do you think that children would be compelled by Peter Griffin in this ad or do you think we have nothing to worry about here? Try to think of some examples of other times when cartoon characters sell a product and compare it to this advertisement.

Categories: advertising, children, present | Leave a comment

Hello, Jell-o.

From paragraphs of descriptive text to just a few short words – food advertising has made quite the evolution over the years. As much as we’d like to think that we live in a world full of completely literate, mindful consumers, the fact of the matter is, we don’t. People barely have time to read the newspaper these days – according to the International Labour Organization, “Americans work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours per year than British workers, and 499 more hours per year than French workers.” I highly doubt people would take the time out to read 9 paragraphs about jell-o.

 

Take a look at this example: a Jell-o ad from 1915. Jell-o’s logo is large and prominent at the top of the advertisement, nothing too unusual here. Oh! Wait, beneath the tagline we have a full paragraph about Jell-o (what is says isn’t legible but I think it has something to do with how Jell-o is such a diverse, household friendly dessert). Beneath that paragraph there are six other paragraphs with next to images of Jell-o; strawberry jell-o, lemon jell-o, cherry jell-o, the list goes on and on. And just when you think you’ve done enough reading, we reach the bottom of the ad and are greeted by, you guessed it, another two paragraphs of Jell-o text. My eyes are sore just looking at all of this text, and from a design standpoint, this would be a colossal no-no had this ad gone to print today. Luckily we’ll never have to worry about that, because something like this would never hit the pages of any magazine. God willing.

 

Now, glance over at the advertisement featured to the right: a modern-day advertisement for Jell-o. Notice a difference? We see the product in its pre-packaged form, ready to go for virtually anyone with places to go and people to see. The most prominent text is “Treat Yourself to Nothing,” not the Jell-o logo as we saw in the ad above. One could argue that Jell-o has already established its prominence in the market and therefore doesn’t need to have its product name be the focus of the ad, but I think that the more important takeaway here is that these two ads reveal a great deal about what life was like back in 1915, and what life is like today, nearly 100 years later.

To put it bluntly, people don’t want to have to read. They don’t want to prepare Jell-o in six different ways. They don’t want to prepare anything at all. They want answers and fast facts. 0 Weight Watchers points per serving – are they trying to tell us something? According to the 1915 ad, Jell-o is America’s most famous dessert, not because it’s low in calories, but because it’s darn tasty.

Do you think we’d be better off with more information in advertisements and if so, would it make us better consumers? Would anyone even bother to read them? Let me now what you think in the comment field below.

NP 4/9

Categories: advertising, past, present | 2 Comments

Food For Thought

Brian Wansink believes that “If people imagine they’re going to taste something, they’re going to look for it,” (Why we eat more than we think). This Julian Simon Research Scholar at the University of Illinois has conducted study after study in order to determine why it is we eat so much by looking at aspects of consumptions such as taste, shape, and quantity. Wansink’s findings were more psychologically based than I would have anticipated – socioeconomic factors were completely ignored, factors that I would argue play just as an important role (if not more) in food consumption habits – but that’s for another time. Wansink does argue that consumption is often influenced by the taste we imagine, and I couldn’t agree with that more.

energy-bars In one experiment, Wansink tests the concept of imagined taste by giving people energy bars with no soy in them. He then asked what they thought of them when the wrapper said “contains 10 grams of protein.” The reaction? Overall, people thought it tasted kind of chocolatey. What happens when the protein bar says 10 grams of soy protein? Everyone pulls out the barf bags – well, not literally – but, people did say that they couldn’t get the nasty taste out of their mouthes. This is what Wansink used to determine that imagining taste can influence consumption habits, in both positive and negative ways. So what? How does this affect us? The truth is it works both ways. The way that food is framed (get it? The Food Frame?) leads to many health implications, both good and bad.

This notion that what we eat and why we choose to eat it is based on what we assume it will taste like is similar to Cheri Ketchum’s “food fantasy” construct. Ketchum sites Campell’s definition of pleasure as “our favorite reaction to certain types of sensations.” This was about viewing television commercials – but really, is there a such a big difference between looking at a television commercial, a print ad, or the packaging of certain foods? In essence, they are all trying to do the same thing, which is to get you to buy a product.

Take the Hostess ad featured below for example. New!100 calorie cupcake packs. Each pack comes with three mini cakes, and there are six packs to a box. According to Junk Food News, “…Hostess 100 Calorie Packs provide a truly satisfying sweet snack experience — without the sacrifice.” People want to have their cake and eat it too, and now they can with 100 calorie Hostess cupcake packs. Hostess has been around forever, and it might be safe to assume that most people, or at least the average consumer, has had a Hostess cupcake at least once in their life. What will this do to the taste association of these 100 calorie packs? It could go both ways. Technically, it is probably considered ‘healthier’ to eat this product as opposed to a traditional Hostess cupcake, but will people associate the taste of their other products to this product, or will they see “100 calorie pack” and assume that the taste will suffer? Wansink might suggest the latter, as packaging and what we perceive the product to taste like even before we eat it plays a huge role in our assessment of how good it tastes.

So, is this kind of influence on consumption positive or negative? It’s hard to say with confidence.

Wansink’s ‘imagined taste’ findings might lead us to believe that people would be less attracted to these cupcakes because they might think the taste would suffer. Great! Three less mini cupcakes consumed, we now live in a healthier world. But maybe that’s not so great – if they aren’t eating the 100 calorie cupcake, what are they eating? Will people go eat out and eat a ‘real’ cupcake? The halo effect could be in full swing here – people might assume that the 100 calories packs are all ‘good for you’ regardless of the fact that the product is a cupcake. In this scenario someone might assume that cupcakes are good for you. I’d be curious to look into the “100 calorie” campaign that seems to be spreading like wildfire and try to find out how people perceive foods that are labeled in such a way. Wansink might already think he knows the answer, but I feel like there is more to be uncovered.

WP 4/5

Categories: advertising, present | Leave a comment

We Live In An M&M World

Who doesn’t love a brightly colored dancing ball of chocolate? Kids dress up like them for Halloween, there are entire stores dedicated to them, and they even have their own unique personalities – have you guessed it yet? M&Ms: they’re everywhere. We have green, the only female M&M who serves as the object of lust for the group of pals, the red, “leader of the pack” who’s certainly the most spunky of the crew, the yellow, rather dopey M&M…the list goes on. I’ve applied human-like personality traits to candy, and what’s even more disturbing is that I hardly had to think about it all. Somehow I’ve seen enough M&M commercials to know exactly what each color acted and sounded like. That’s the power of advertising.

In a way, these little guys with their unique personalities, interests, and attitudes, have been used in a variety of commercials that appeal to both young and old target audiences. The advertisement featured below is a perfect example of a marketing campaign that sets its net wide and ends up capturing a pretty diverse population of consumers. The red M&M starts off the commercial with his very own rendition of Meat Loaf’s, “I’d Do Anything For Love.” This commercial is from 2013, mind you, so the Meat Loaf reference clearly targets adults who were around when that song first came out in 1993. I doubt any child would get that musical reference – but of course that’s not the only compelling part of the ad.

Even though kids watching this commercial probably don’t know the song, they might just as well find humor in the fact that an M&M is singing and playing piano, wearing a funny toupee, sitting on a bowl of popcorn, and getting shoved into an oven. The commercial ends with an image of all the different colored M&Ms floating out of a huge puddle of chocolate, a final reminder that this is an ad for candy and not a cartoon, despite how much the M&M clan has grown on us over the years.

M&M commercials often tend to bridge the gap between what children might find humorous (slapstick comedy, being hit in the face with a pie, etc.) and what adults find funny (parodies, generational reference, double entendres). I’ve really started to notice this type of advertising a lot recently – and I’m beginning to realize that it’s no coincidence. Can you think of any other examples of advertisements that do this? If you can, post below! I’d love to confirm or deny my hypothesis!

NP 4/2

Categories: advertising, children, present | 1 Comment

WATE-ON: Why Be Skinny?

When and why did the shift from too skinny to too fat happen? I’m sure there’s a detailed outline somewhere on the internet that shows a progressive change from one end of the spectrum to the other based on advertising, food consumption patterns, and a plethora of other factors. I’ve looked for said outline and I can’t find it – in fact, I don’t believe it exists. I think body image perception of what’s right and what’s wrong varies by decade, society, culture, and quite honestly, opinion. Myths about weight-loss have circulated through the gossip mill for years, starting all the way back from the late 19th and 20th centuries, were advertisements suggested using tape worms to lose weight. Ed Grabianowski of How Stuff Works states “There is evidence of advertising [that says] “sanitized tapeworms” help women maintain a slim figure. Whether the pills sold actually contained tapeworms or whether women actually ingested them hoping to acquire a tapeworm is difficult to verify.”

What I find even more interestivintage-weight-gain-ad1ng than advertisements that promote weight-loss, are vintage advertisements that promote weight-gain. I’ll repeat that for emphasis – yes folks, weight-gain. Such advertisements exists, just take a look at the ad featured to the left. This type of ad seeks out girls who are just too skinny. Why feel left out by your curvy-friends? Are you seeking more male attention? This ad even concludes that you will not enjoy life if you’re skinny. The advertisement’s most predominant text says, “WHY BE SKINNY? COME ON AND ENJOY LIFE!” and is referring to wate-on, a supplement that helps women put on “extra pounds and inches of healthy flesh.” Seems too good to be true, right ladies? Wrong. The curvy woman featured in this ad seems to be loving her fuller body after drinking wate-on, because more womanly bodies was once a sought after appearance.

This lifestyle of course is not necessarily healthier, so is it better to promote weight-gain or weight-loss? Should either be promoted? It seems to me that what it is we eat should be the product being advertised, not the way it will make us look or the desired status we will achieving from consuming it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure I speak for a lot of women when I say that I’d be a happy girl if being curvy was “in,” but the skeptic in me questions just what kind of role advertising agencies should have in our choice to eat one product or another, especially with relation to issues of body image. Do you think advertisements that overtly depict weight-loss or gain should be regulated? Or do you think it’s up to the consumer to decide what he or she thinks is desirable?

NP 3/26

Categories: advertising, comparison, past, present | 1 Comment

Collin, The Local Chicken

In a previous post here on The Food Frame called War On Food, I mention some current food trends including the latest fad which is to purchase and consume locally grown, organic food. Don’t be insulted by the word “fad” if you happen to be one of those local-eaters. Lots of people are questioning whether or not eating local is a fad, though not many have very conclusive answers. I’m going to expound a little bit on that today with a focus on the entertainment industry and the way it tells stories about how food is grown and raised

Portlandia, an original-short based comedy series on IFC, uses satire to analyze current trends in American culture and society, from riding bikes instead of driving cars, to having a really hip wedding. Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, the show’s two stars, do this by creating witty sketches that ‘poke fun at’ or literally ‘make fun of ‘ current, highly visible fads or trends. 

In the video clip below, a couple is at a restaurant and are about to order their meals when they ask the waitress about ‘the chicken.’ She goes on to describe the chicken’s life in great detail, from what it ate (organic walnuts and soy milk) to how many acres of land it roamed free on before being slaughtered. Brownstein then goes on to ask about who “they” are (‘they’ being the farmers who raised the chicken). The folks from the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers alliance may or may not be Portlandia fans. In this clip, Julie Maschhoff, a pig farmer from Illinois says, “I see food on TV that’s glamorous and it’s exciting if we can remember the people who helped produce that food.” Don’t worry Julie, we remember. These farmers might not like the type of discussion that could arise from this Portlandia clip, but at the very least they should be happy the topic has become discussion-worthy at all.

Bandura’s Social Learning Theory is working here in a unique way, in that the viewers of this video might actually be discouraged from eating locally grown food, an underrepresented viewpoint on the local food movement. Think about it: if the original fad was to eat locally, then the next fad could be not to. This has Bobo doll written all over it. In this sense, the viewers of this clip are the nursery boys and girls in Bandura’s experiment, and this Portlandia sketch is the adult who’s beating the Bobo doll with great force. Armisen and Brownstein craftily assault people obsessed with eating local – metaphorically speaking of course.

In Griffin’s “A First Look at Communication Theory, Social Learning Theory,” Bandura’s bobo doll experiment concludes that “…reinforcement doesn’t affect the learning of novel responses, but it does ‘determine whether or not observationally acquired competencies will be put to use.’” Does that mean if more instances of anti-local sentiment arise in television programs that more people will stop eating local, or at least start questioning the extremes of this fad? Keep your eyes pealed and let me know if you’ve noticed any other examples in the television programs you watch by commenting below!

WP 3/22

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Phallic Food

My initial intention with The Food Frame was to analyze food advertising, past and present. I had no idea that what I’d find in the process would be so upsetting. Ask anyone what they think of advertising in general and they’ll probably say it’s just one big game of persuasion. What they might not say is that many of the food advertisements we see today directly exploit women and are riddled with sexism and sexual innuendo. Degrading and downright disgusting ads seem to be turning up everywhere, in ads promoting everything from vodka to gelato. I never identified as a feminist but after looking at so many ads where women are objectified time and time again I just want to start a rallying the troops. Let’s go girls.

Take this advertisement from Burger King for example. This ad is for the BK Super Seven Incher, a “long, juicy, flame-grilled” sandwich. Long, juicy, flame-grilled – doesn’t sound so bad, does it? Put those words beneath a girl with her mouth open and insert a long sandwich and it’s a whole other story. Where are all the immature men with bad senses of humor? I can practically see two teenage boys nudging each other and laughing hysterically at the sight of this ad. Kind of makes me want to vomit and throw punches simultaneously. These ad agencies clearly have one target audience in mind, and that does not include any percentage of the female population. The intention here is to create a phallic connection to a sexual act by depicting a young woman with her mouth open and the phrase “It’ll blow your mind away,” beneath her. What this has to do with the product itself or why someone would want to eat this sandwich because of this ad is beyond me.

Part of me has to wonder if these ads are being created because they are instant press-making machines. The saying, “All PR is good PR” shouldn’t apply here. I think if anything companies who use these types of imagery, puns, and innuendos are just turning more and more consumers away. Any female with a grain of self-respect will shun Burger King at the sight of this ad. No more BK for me. If you’re a female, how do you feel about this advertisement from your perspective? If you’re a male, do you find this humorous or disrespectful? Comment in the field below!

NP 3/19

Categories: advertising, present | Tags: , | 2 Comments

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