Mixed Signals is Erin Straza’s weekly musing about marketing miscellany in advertising, branding, and messaging.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t know so much about advertising strategy. It would be nice to watch TV and flip through a magazine without my advertising eyes searching for meaning behind the pitch.

It ruins any enjoyment there may be from an advertisement well executed.

Take for example, this spot titled “A Father’s Lesson” for Kraft Mac & Cheese. It’s part of a campaign designed to draw adults back into the fold. Check it out:


It’s funny, right? A kid who steals food from his sister’s plate, a dad who eats said food from his son’s fork. The over-dramatization of the scene is what does it, with the tears of regret from the son and the pained expression on the dad’s face. And then there’s the comparison to those anti-drug use ads—the one where the kid is caught with marijuana and when the dad presses him, he admits that everything he ever learned about smoking pot he learned from his father.

Yes, it’s funny. But then my advertising eyes pick it all apart and the fun falls away. I look at the message supporting the premise, how that shapes our thoughts about the product and family and the foundations of behavior.

And all I could see was sadness. Happy thoughts, gone.

Why? Because this ad speaks to our sin nature and how the behaviors of one generation are so easily picked up by the next. (I bet Kraft wasn’t expecting that sort of weight from its new campaign.) Several passages in the Old Testament speak to this sort of cycle (Exod. 34:6–7; Deut. 5:8–10), where sin patterns are passed along from parents to children.

That’s why the kid steals from his sister. He saw his dad stealing, and his sin-prone heart decided to join in. Like father, like son.

I think Kraft’s message resonates in our hearts because we are both the kid and the dad. We have seen sin demonstrated for us and we have demonstrated sin for others. When you look at it like that, this message is rather sad for a TV spot that’s meant to be lighthearted and funny.