Yiayia sure as heck doesn't, but do you approve?
How often do we pat ourselves on the back for the more progressive notions and attitudes we hold? You know what I mean. Some senior citizen pops off about “those kids today” or “all that new-fangled technology” and we roll our eyes and sigh, trying so very hard to understand how it is they can grasp so little about the world as it is now. Luckily, we (of course) “get it” but being patient with such ignorance can be tiring at times. Happily our broader and more nuanced understanding allows us to be gracious in the face of such obviously narrow-minded ignorance.
Old people just don’t understand how much more complicated things are today. Their desire for simplicity is sadly misguided. For example, we know so much more about the environment than they ever did - both the damage that was done and the ways to properly fix it all. And we understand things like relationships and sex with far more maturity and overall sophistication than they could even imagine. Their laughable prudishness and red-faced embarrassment over silly little things like revealing clothes or sexy movies. Even modern attitudes. Women work while their men can stay home. Empowered women, making choices for all. There is no stigma, no scarlet letter. We are evolved, and those left shaking their heads in dismay are simply out of touch, confused and befuddled by a world that has clearly passed them by.
So you have to agree that it’s extremely interesting when a for-profit company doubles down on a commercial mascot that is the absolute epitome of what is a completely non-progressive, totally stunted world view. Ladies and gentlemen, I present Yiayia.
“You dress like a prostitute.”
“You marry machine? You are sick woman.”
“This looks like the pornography.”
Athenos, a Kraft brand that claims to offer authentically prepared, Greek-style foods like feta cheese, hummus and pita chips has re-launched their last year’s advertising campaign featuring an opinionated yet supposedly relatable Greek grandmother creation named Yiayia in a series of all-new ads.
Apparently Athenos saw double-digit sales increases when Yiayia was on the air. The conceit behind the campaign is that the hardened attitudes and non-progressive worldview of Yiayia highlights the Athenos brand's commitment to products made with traditional ingredients. And it’s no exaggeration as Yiayia is blunt, opinionated and unmoving when faced with modern situations. In fact, the only thing she seems to approve of is Atheno products, which makes sense for a corporate mascot. I doubt Ronald McDonald eats at Taco Bell or wears Nikes.
The commercials are pretty funny as an announcer moves in (vocally) on various normal, everyday situations and cheerfully asks what the folks involved are up to. Even before the subjects finish their sunny explanations, the announcer immediately breaks in and suggests “Let’s see what Yiayia thinks.”
In each case, Yiayia is shown rambling about her medieval village, working with great effort, while being both disapproving and scolding. She is confused as to the obviousness of the transgressions being committed before her eyes. In each case, the folks in the ads are shocked, and slightly horrified at Yiayia’s blunt judgement on their personal situations. In one, a pleasant young women in a nice dress is about to serve hummus to her party guests. Yiayia’s take: “You dress like a prostitute.” The woman looks horrified upon hearing this, as her eyes reveal the confusion she now has about......well, everything. She asks if Yiayia just called her a prostitute. The announcer says “no” but Yiayia says it again, louder. The announcer verbally steps in and tries to salvage the situation by saying that at least Yiayia approves of her choice of hummus, which is Athenos of course.
Another spot features the most clean cut group of young folks ever sitting in their swim suits by a pool enjoying salads with Athenos feta cheese on them. Yiayia’s take? “This looks like the pornography.” The kids are shocked, and confused, questioning almost wordlessly as Yiayia shouts “pornography” twice more.
Yiayia takes on a stay-at-home husband (“You are wife?”), video chatting with your spouse (“You marry machine? You sick woman.”) and more. An Athenos press release brags “Yiayia and Athenos are now interchangeable, [as] the brand's respect for traditional Greek preparation is brought to life through Yiayia's respect (and demand) for traditional ways of life.” Gotcha.......but doesn’t all this kind of fly in the face of the notion that progressive values are superior?
It goes further. Check out the extended versions of the commercials where the previously confident and happy young folks try hard to please Yiayia by dressing more modestly or finding work. Could it be, that deep in their hearts, they knew she had a point? No, it’s not a porn shoot, but really, how much less clothing could you be wearing when everyone’s clothes put together could fit inside a Slurpee cup? And maybe the rightness of a stay-at-home dad isn’t all that self-evident after all? Who knows? Could Yiayia (shudder) be right? Maybe being all modern and progressive isn’t so advanced after all. Kraft has a real time-bomb ticking away here. What if blunt-force Yiayia started weighing in on things like healthcare, daycare, or even abortion – and can you even imagine same-sex marriage? Let’s see what Yiayia thinks indeed. Opa!