This week, Party City signed off on an epically terrible ad for a product called the Infladium. It’s a self inflating snack service in the shape of a football stadium. It’s a fun idea, if you’re into football kitsch.
But the 15-second TV commercial intended to advertise the Infladium raised the wrath of food allergy advocates across the country.
And for good reason.
The gist of the commercial is this: Two women are setting up Super Bowl snacks. There’s a main table with the Infladium. A solitary stool is off to the side with a few gluten free crackers for person named “Tina”, who doesn’t eat gluten. One of the women says “Ewww, gross” in relation to Tina and her gluten allergy.
Food allergies, the people who have them, and the people who eat to accommodate their allergies are gross, according to Party City and the firm they hired to create this mean-girl sh*t show, Hill Holliday. I’m sure they thought that they were being edgy and taking a jab at the latest diet fad. Except they didn’t. They shamed an entire population of people who cannot eat gluten for medical reasons.
And the #foodallergymommymafia wasn’t about to let that slip by without a fight.
“This weekend, my son, Echo, attended two birthday parties for classmates. Both were wild and fun, as you would expect pre-school birthday parties to be. And both were full of gluten, which my 4.5 year old is severely allergic to.
I coordinated with the hosting families to see what they were serving so I could approximate gluten-free options for my son. He’s missed out on a lot of normal kid experiences due to a rare and severe food allergy syndrome he was born with known as FPIES. I’ll be damned if he has to miss out on eating cupcakes or a sundae waffle bar with his friends because of it. We come armed with our own food and hope that his peers don’t single him out.
Approximately 1:10 children now suffer from food allergies.
My son is one of them.
His medical condition is not something he can control.
He is not gross.
He does not expect people to accommodate him, (although it does this mama’s heart good when people attempt that kindness).
He is a smart, tough, compassionate, bright light, and I hope someday soon the rest of the world catches on to how he’s just like every other kid. He just needs a little more protection, and apparently now a lot more advocacy.
I hope mocking food allergies was worth it, Party City. You’ve lost business from an entire host of food allergy families, and this mama won’t give you another penny of our gluten-free money.
#iamtina #boycottpartycity #foodallergymommymafia “
I posted a complaint on Party City’s Facebook page, along with thousands of other food allergy sufferers and their families. I posted on Hill Holliday’s Facebook page, and they left the following canned quasi-apology on my professional page:
Hours later, Party City published a similar quasi-apology that seemed more concerned about a breach of contract with (the fabulous) Sunny Anderson who developed the Infladium and who also suffers from food allergies, than learning why the internet lost its collective gluten-free mind over their food allergy shame campaign.
It’s great that they are promising to give a donation to the Celiac Foundation. Buying forgiveness from a portion of the community is a start, and I know those funds are needed.
But it’s not enough.
Here’s The Thing: Party City’s ad wasn’t insensitive. It was mean-spirited. It’s still airing on Foodnetwork and Nickelodeon as I write this, even though Party City said they pulled it from all the networks. And it’s not just celiac people who are being mocked here. Every person with a food allergy who has had to navigate typical social interactions where food is served, (which is basically everywhere), was included in the jab.
The ad promotes looking down on people who are even slightly different than the status quo. It pits women against each other in a Mean Girls dynamic that would make 2004 Lindsay Lohan slow clap. It takes a deep dig at people with a medical condition who, as in the case of my son’s life-threatening rare food allergy syndrome, are protected by the ADA. You know, the law that protects people with disabilities, and ensures that they will be treated fairly.
Not once in any of the hullabaloo have I seen a commitment to understanding and educating people about the seriousness of food allergies. Instead, Party City only vaguebooked us with promises of unspecified donation dollar amounts, and no real clarity about what they’ve learned from this debacle. For this food allergy mama and her mafia, it’s not enough.
Party City’s ad wasn’t an innocent lapse in judgment or poor agency vetting.
It was a revelation of their core values.
All I can say is, ewww.