By Published On: 26 June 2013556 words2.8 min read

This is part of our Ad Nauseam series- a look at advertising through the ethical vegan lens.

Empty booths at Red Robin, after the vegans stopped coming in.

Empty booths at Red Robin (after the vegans left in exasperation?)

There are a million reasons (I counted) why it’s a good thing when a non-vegan establishment offers a vegan option on its menu. It allows us to vote with our dollars, the same way we would in a supermarket. It gives us something to eat at a place we might be comfortable with from our pregan days. It’s a sign that things are changing. I could go on, but you get the point.

Ever wonder how to alienate part of your clientele? One restaurant chain has it down! In one of Red Robin’s latest commercials, they claim that they “cater to a lot of different tastes.” After all, they have twenty-four different burgers. The woman in the ad conspiratorially points out, “They even have a garden burger just in case your teenage daughter is going through a phase.” Wink wink, nudge nudge.

I was going to thank Red Robin, really, on behalf of all the vegans they’ve insulted. I was going to talk about how their garden burger offering was a patronizing gesture; about how they’ve likened compassion for others and an ethical choice to a teenage phase, as if it’s something we should all grow out of one of these days when we realize we’re being silly. As it turns out, though, there were others who shared the same sentiments, as seen in Yahoo! Shine’s article earlier this week.

Of course, there were those who disagreed with us. (See: comments on previously referenced Yahoo! Shine article.) There were even those who took our reaction and tried to invalidate it. (See: Kathleen Volk Miller’s “Why Aren’t Vegetarians Offended by Ranch Dressing?”: “To me, the vegans and vegetarians are taking a very light joke very seriously. Dare I suggest they eat some red meat and build up their fortitude a bit?”)

When vegans take offense to ads that joke about things that are important to us, we’re really not trying to be difficult. In this particular instance, both teenage and adult vegans are being belittled. Teenagers get enough bullshit from the world for taking a stand, as YDV’s own teen writer Hay is currently exploring in her articles. And adults? Yeah, we get it, too.

When someone asks a restaurant to make a vegan option available, they are asking that restaurant to give them a reason to give that establishment business! Insults don’t belong in a national TV spot, even if they’re just being funny. Veganism is not just a phase; our numbers are growing and people are waking up to compassion. Sure, that might hurt a burger joint’s bottom line, but maybe if advertisements would evolve beyond making fun of others, as Taco Bell did earlier this year with their veggie shaming, we could all move into this new, veg-friendly world with positivity.

Ethical veganism comes down to one very important focus: the animals. The jokes being made are ultimately at their expense, and there is nothing “light” about that.

Note: While Red Robin’s website does not categorically say whether the garden burger is vegan or vegetarian, they also carry a vegan Boca burger which would apply to the above discussion.

Photo credit: Lehigh Valley, PA via Flickr

By Published On: 26 June 2013556 words2.8 min read

This is part of our Ad Nauseam series- a look at advertising through the ethical vegan lens.

Empty booths at Red Robin, after the vegans stopped coming in.

Empty booths at Red Robin (after the vegans left in exasperation?)

There are a million reasons (I counted) why it’s a good thing when a non-vegan establishment offers a vegan option on its menu. It allows us to vote with our dollars, the same way we would in a supermarket. It gives us something to eat at a place we might be comfortable with from our pregan days. It’s a sign that things are changing. I could go on, but you get the point.

Ever wonder how to alienate part of your clientele? One restaurant chain has it down! In one of Red Robin’s latest commercials, they claim that they “cater to a lot of different tastes.” After all, they have twenty-four different burgers. The woman in the ad conspiratorially points out, “They even have a garden burger just in case your teenage daughter is going through a phase.” Wink wink, nudge nudge.

I was going to thank Red Robin, really, on behalf of all the vegans they’ve insulted. I was going to talk about how their garden burger offering was a patronizing gesture; about how they’ve likened compassion for others and an ethical choice to a teenage phase, as if it’s something we should all grow out of one of these days when we realize we’re being silly. As it turns out, though, there were others who shared the same sentiments, as seen in Yahoo! Shine’s article earlier this week.

Of course, there were those who disagreed with us. (See: comments on previously referenced Yahoo! Shine article.) There were even those who took our reaction and tried to invalidate it. (See: Kathleen Volk Miller’s “Why Aren’t Vegetarians Offended by Ranch Dressing?”: “To me, the vegans and vegetarians are taking a very light joke very seriously. Dare I suggest they eat some red meat and build up their fortitude a bit?”)

When vegans take offense to ads that joke about things that are important to us, we’re really not trying to be difficult. In this particular instance, both teenage and adult vegans are being belittled. Teenagers get enough bullshit from the world for taking a stand, as YDV’s own teen writer Hay is currently exploring in her articles. And adults? Yeah, we get it, too.

When someone asks a restaurant to make a vegan option available, they are asking that restaurant to give them a reason to give that establishment business! Insults don’t belong in a national TV spot, even if they’re just being funny. Veganism is not just a phase; our numbers are growing and people are waking up to compassion. Sure, that might hurt a burger joint’s bottom line, but maybe if advertisements would evolve beyond making fun of others, as Taco Bell did earlier this year with their veggie shaming, we could all move into this new, veg-friendly world with positivity.

Ethical veganism comes down to one very important focus: the animals. The jokes being made are ultimately at their expense, and there is nothing “light” about that.

Note: While Red Robin’s website does not categorically say whether the garden burger is vegan or vegetarian, they also carry a vegan Boca burger which would apply to the above discussion.

Photo credit: Lehigh Valley, PA via Flickr

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