The power of food and drink advertising

I want to make you ravenous. I want you to be so hungry from reading my copy, that you’ll ravage the packaging of the product I’m advertising in a fit of hunger-fuelled passion, licking the tips of your fingers as you relish every last morsel. I want you to release your inner glutton, throw caution to the wind and treat yo’self. I am the devil on your shoulder. I am a food and drink copywriter.

Food and drink advertising is a bit of a maligned art. As one newspaper journalist eloquently coined it, the gastro-imperative has the tendency to cheese certain, finnicky folk off. They blame Innocent. I blame them too. With their cheeky, cheerful copy and double-entrendre puns, they have nailed their target audience and thrown down the gauntlet to food and drink brands. 1975 ad for Spam

Thankfully, we’ve moved on from the benefits-based food advertising of the seventies. An unholy amalgamation of unidentified meat, whose sole benefit was cheapness, is no longer on the menu du jour. Thank god.

As food and drink brands recognise the value of great branding and advertising though, it’s simply not enough to describe the ingredients, provenance or purpose of your product. A food product has to have personality, it has to fit with a consumer’s ethical values, their lifestyle. It has to have ‘nice feelings’ attached to it. Is that really such a sin? Of course not. Everyone likes to buy a product that makes them feel good. Why not food?

As a product that naturally taps into our most primal emotions and basic needs, it follows that food and drink advertising should tap into our strongest emotions and most basic instincts in order to sell. Hunger, lust, nostalgia, these are all emotions that trigger our ‘buying brain’, especially when we are making impulse purchases like branded food and drink products.

Let’s take yoghurt as an example. When I was a child, yoghurt was just yoghurt. You could have strawberry yoghurt, or raspberry yoghurt. Occasionally, if you were feeling exceptionally adventurous, you could have a coconut yoghurt. Yoghurt was dull. Oh, how the tables have turned. There is now a brand of yoghurt for every possible occasion and buying mood. Want to feel virtuous? How about this natural, slightly soured Icelandic yoghurt?

Think of glittering icy fjords, freshly churned milk in the crisp air, the sour tingle on your tastebuds as you savour the ice cold, creamy Nordic goodness. You feel pure, maybe even a little adventurous, you’ve tried something different after all. Or perhaps you’re in the mood for a little luxury? Try this luscious, organic yoghurt, blended with luxurious toppings inspired by your favourite desserts, made using British ingredients. It’s organic too, meaning you can feel good and treat yourself, guilt-free.

Yoghurt is no longer bland, the afterthought of a mediocre dinner, the only item in your lunchbox you’d be willing to trade. Yoghurt is an experience. It is a statement about who you are in that given moment, it is a defining, existential choice.

And that is the power of food and drink advertising.

Rebecca is a freelance copywriter specialising in copy for the food, drink and hospitality industries. You can check out more of her work and thoughts on advertising over at

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