An advert telling viewers to sack off avocados for a bacon sarnie was banned for dissing fruit and veg.
What it means: Alongside its coffee, Costa Coffee sells breakfast bacon and egg rolls. It recently decided that a fun way to promote its brekkie items was to play on the “frustration and unpredictability of the avocado” (yes, that’s a direct quote, and no, we also did not know it was a thing) by telling radio listeners that they should choose Costa’s brekkie rolls over avocados because avocados go off. (As adverts go, this one probably wasn’t in much danger of giving the John Lewis Christmas special a run for its money.)
That got it in trouble with listeners, and then the regulatory Advertising Standards Authority, because by implying that fresh fruit was a bad breakfast choice, Costa was “condon[ing] or encourag[ing] bad nutritional habits”. The advert was banned.
This might sound like a silly story, but it actually highlights a debate at the beating heart of economics (honest, we didn’t just want to talk about avocados). Some economists would say that banning the advert was unnecessary and/or wrong because of something called ‘rational choice theory’, which basically means we’re all smart enough to choose whatever breakfast will make us happiest by expertly calculating the trade off between long-term health (eat the avocado) and short-term pleasure (eat the bacon).
You might think that sounds like precisely nobody that you know, but this idea has actually been super prominent in economics for a very long time and a lot of the economic decisions we make as a society are based on it. Ofc it’s been criticised, so a lot of economists are now talking about humans having ‘bounded rationality’, which is where we try to make smart choices but usually don’t know enough to do so. That means we can be tricked into making choices against our own interests by things like an advertisement telling us not to pick the healthier brekkie.
It’s easy to think you’ve got nothing to do with the economy – you can’t see it, feel it, or engage with it in any tangible way. But in fact the economy is just the result of how you live your life and how everyone around you lives theirs…