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Dublin: 10 °C Saturday 7 December, 2019

Can we take a moment to remember how ridiculous Special K advertisements have been over the years?

It’s hard to believe that some of these ever made it to television.

NY: Possible layoffs at Kellogg Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

NOW DON’T GET me wrong.

Although in theory it’s not very appealing, I really like Special K. I can eat bowl after bowl of it and have a few friends who feel the same way, even though they can’t quite understand why.

I don’t buy the cereal though. I usually just get Aldi’s Benefit due to the fact that it’s only like 90c and tastes exactly the same. On top of this, Special K’s TV advertisements over the years really have not sat well with me.

 The worst of which was probably the advertisement that pushed ‘The Special K Challenge’.

Is that ringing any bells? The advertisement recommended that you should replace two of your meals each day with a 45g bowl of Special K and skimmed milk, in order to lose weight quickly. The UK/Irish versions of the advertisements are nowhere to be found on YouTube, but Kelloggs India still have the Indian version of the ad on their channel.

It stars Indian actress Aarthi Thakur, and her on-screen husband who is shocked that she decided to dance at a wedding because she had put on weight and lost all of her confidence. That’s until she informs him that she had 28 bowls of Special K over the course of two weeks and it fixed all of her problems in life.

Source: Kelloggs India/YouTube

The diet has been slammed by the likes of Web MD, who say that it is a ‘quick fix, not a long-term program’, which includes no support or recommendations from healthcare experts.

If you search the diet online, you’ll find countless testimonies on forums like Mumsnet where the diet is labelled ‘a disaster’. One woman said that the diet actually increased her snacking, and made her feel worse about her diet than she had previously felt. Well, that’s not great, is it?

The actual portion size you’re supposed to have is tiny, I weighed it out and my normal bowl was about three times as big! Plus, it did not keep me full or satisfied and I ended up eating anything I could get my hands on because I was so hungry.

At the end of 2017, I remembered the diet and decided to tweet about how strange it was. I received replies from people who said that they and their friends had tried the diet when they were really young. As in, twelve or thirteen years old.

One girl responded to my tweet claiming that it had sparked an eating disorder that she struggled with for ten years afterwards. That’s pretty bleak.

 Apart from their advertisements pushing questionable diets, Special K have long been making some fairly ridiculous ads for TV.

Most of these seem like they were conceptualised by someone who has never met a woman in real life. Very few of us walk down to our kitchens in nightdresses, with perfect hair and makeup at a time of morning where there’s perfect natural lighting.

special k

In all of these ads, these women have absolutely nothing in their presses, apart from a lone box of Special K and a few bowls. If this were in any way realistic, there’d be biscuit tins full of medical supplies falling out every time your one opened her press door.

Absolutely NOBODY would dare to try and eat a bowl of cereal with one hand while curling their hair with the other hand. Have you got a death wish?


The older the ads are also pretty frustrating.

If you have ever put on a pair of leather trousers, or even just skinny jeans, you’ll know that it can be a pretty exhausting activity. Going shopping for jeans is one of the least fun activities imaginable.

There’s no joy in taking a pair of jeans off or trying to put a pair on, yet this Special K ad features a woman laughing her head off in her room alone while trying to hoist up a pair of leather trousers.

Speaking to herself, she says things like “Wow! Good? That’s an understatement!” and licks her teeth in the mirror before saying “I look like a teenager! I look like a rockstar!”

Source: Jarooosa/YouTube

The 1984 ‘Pinch an Inch’ campaign is one of the most depressing advertisements you’ll ever see.

We can only imagine the damage that this did to self esteem in the 1980s.

Have you tried the Special K pinch? If you can pinch more than an inch, try the high-protein Special K breakfast.

Source: Cereal Mad/YouTube

Obviously, that kind of stuff does not slide anymore.

If any of those ads were to make it to TV today, someone would probably be getting fired. So, Special K have gone in a slightly different direction with their latest ad. This ad hasn’t got any women in sexy red dresses and it doesn’t even tell you how young and attractive you can become by eating 28 bowls of cereal over a two-week period.

Everything we’re made of powers everything you’re made of. Special K, powering you.

Source: Ads of Brands/YouTube

You would think that after decades of sitting through sexist advertisements, there would be no women who would sincerely buy into this new marketing. And you’re right. It seems that men are the only ones falling for it.

The Youtube comments are laden with upset viewers who are branding this a ‘misandrist’ advertisement for cereal that only ‘hairy feminists’ can eat, as there are no men featured in it.

Ah yes, Special K – the cereal we all know as being at the forefront of feminism.



If you would like to speak confidentially about your concern that you or a friend could be struggling with an eating disorder, the contact number for the eating disorder helpline run by Bodywhys is 1890-200-444. 

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About the author:

Kelly Earley

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