Oatly’s ‘Help Dad’ advert is a nasty attempt at fomenting generational war to aid the company’s sales. A taste for cows milk is seen as dad’s dirty little secret. He must be outed for his perverted addiction and browbeaten into drinking fake milk instead.
Oatly’s dad looks more like an out-of-shape, doddery grandad than a bone-healthy, active adult who sensibly includes one of nature’s most nutrient-dense foods in his diet. He is a shambling, sneaky old codger who deserves to be shamed by his sneering, demeaning, righteous son.
The sinister teenager in question reminds me of the stereotypical public school bully – a ‘woke’ version of Malcolm McDowell in the film If – who pitilessly torments the vulnerable. His character has more than a hint of the creepy children in John Wyndham’s sci-fi classic The Midwich Cuckoos, a book that warned of the generational conflicts of decades to come. Midwich’s children grow up too fast and their minds exhibit frightening abilities that give them control over their seniors.
This is a plot line that fits Oatly’s money-with-menaces marketing manoeuvre snugly. It exploits that crude Greta Thunberg-style positioning of all older people as planet-thrashers and all young people as planetary saviours.
Oatly’s creatives want to use this false framing to build a brand that is no stranger to controversy itself with its choice of investment partner. Perhaps poor old dad’s humiliation will help Oatly ‘cancel’ the resulting calls for a boycott?
The data basis of this advert – “the dairy and meat industries emit more carbon dioxide equivalent than all the world’s planes, trains, cars, boats etc. combined” – rests on a cherry-picked, highly partisan source. By contrast, a 2018 FAO report concluded that “direct emissions from transport account for about 14% of all emissions from human activities, while direct emissions from livestock account for 5% of the total”.
So apart from giving him a lesson in manners, I would love to see this young man being taught how to interpret statistics, so as to avoid making wildly inaccurate statements. He has so much to learn, and Oatly is exploiting his ignorance.