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Costa Coffee criticised avocados. Millennials declared war.

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.

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Reader Comments

  • RW

    Your right to a degree. You mentioned “the wandering Jew”.

    I elaborate that the Jewish people, historically have tended to migrate almost exclusively to locations that are economically and culturally vibrant already. I would speculate that Jews have thrived in these places and have often improved the bounds of their economies and knowledge base.

    You can also ask; how many massive entertainment conglomerates, Nobel winners or billionaires has Isreal developed? If Jews are so capable, why isn’t Tel Aviv the Rome of our time?

    Jews are successful because they value education, maintain a strong social cohesive, they actively monitor and have a good sense for Zeitgeist wherever they are and they carefully choose the places they settle and congregate themselves heavily in these choice locations.

    But most importantly (haulocaust increased the importance of this aspect), they actually designed their culture for success. They not only attend Harvard, they use what they learned to better the group as a whole. With as much, they studied intricate networking systems, adapted to it and in many cases improved upon them. (See how Japan acquired Aegis warships and made them better).

    Of course there is nothing wrong with any of this. It’s when you elaborately gain disproportionate power in any society where you would stand out, you must take care when attempting to make a society better (Civil Rights movement) and rewriting that society all together (mass immigration). Ask blacks in China, Mexico, Philippines or India how much opportunity they have? Go to businesses owned by their American diaspora and see how many blacks they hire. Go to Silicon Valley and see how many East or South Asian tech workers wish they could work with more black people. California might work as a state, but as a nation, I think your rolling the nuclear dice here. I hope we can succeed as a tolerant pluralistic superpower but at this stage in human societal development, it’s a pipe dream.

    And if Jews really are the icon for success, they would see that fundamental human successes happen over generations. Just look at the rest of the planet? Are we ready?