Friday, 24 May 2013

Fantastic Future Factories - Cereal & SIM Cards

There is a massive hole in your knowledge, and mine. None of us really know where stuff comes from any more. At best a label can tell us the nation of origin, but how does that help us? This was especially obvious a while ago when there was a big news story about horse meat in supermarket lasagne. A lot of people said that the consumers shared the blame. We had been warned for years that food hygiene standards were unreliable in low-budget, planet-wide food systems – then we were shocked to find out what that meant. But if you can’t believe in a faceless international conglomerate, who can you believe in? I am literally asking if there are any brands we can truly trust.

Luckily, several companies have done something revolutionary. In the interests of transparency, they have produced 30-second adverts that show exactly what conditions are like in their main factory. It turns out everything is much more like Willy Wonka’s factory than we ever suspected. Let’s take a look at them after the click.


Let's start with a revealing inspection of the working conditions and environmental impact of the Kellogg's factory. They produce Coco Puffs and other grain-based breakfast-cereal-things that you pour milk over because you haven't realised yet that milk is disgusting and poisonous and like, a day away from being green and powdery.

I had no idea food technology was so advanced. Those talking animals have iPads and jet packs! Everything is white and clean. There are no barrels of preservatives, fume-belching chimneys or industrial waste; the entire factory is even encased in a light, airy biodome in the middle of a lush jungle. The whole process seems very natural. You could almost believe that grain just naturally turns milk chocolatey. Maybe one day.

However it’s probably bad industry practise to have a pipeline directly connecting you to the big evil smoky factory where Croc works.

crocodile coco puffs factory jungle advert
This is where they make those awful plastic clogs

Croc’s factory is rusty, dark and blocky, and is also literally on fire. If you keep your wits about you, it’s also visible in the background during the first second of the advert. This is probably to subliminally establish very early on that these plastic domes above a waterfall are massively different to the alternative. Croc even sits in a control room, cut off from the factory and his workers, while Coco Monkey is clearly a warm and friendly boss who says hello to his employees. It’s also a very low-risk environment: Coco says at the beginning that he will never forget the time his cereal was sabotaged to be slightly less rich in fibre. Despite being easily resolved, this was a memorable problem. His job is so easy that, even unto his dying day, he will always remember the time he had to push a button.

coco puffs advert solution button ipad apple monkey
Thank God his training prepared him for this

While some factories may have a suspiciously high amount of horse meat in their product, you can count on the talking animals at Kellogg’s to deliver high standards. Unless one of the talking horses falls in.


This one is 40 seconds long but it’s much more adorable.

It’s not exactly a sealed biodome above a jungle waterfall, is it? But on the other hand at least it’s not high-impact industry like Croc’s factory. I think the only fumes coming out of this factory are the smell of tea, lavender oil and sensible cardigans. This is basically arts & crafts. This is grass-roots. Hell, the nanas take such painstaking care of their production process that Shreddies can even be called artisanal.

I suppose there’s a question of whether these women are being exploited, but they seem pretty content. If you’re concerned about the ladies then you can judge for yourself by watching the very extensive collection of Shreddies Nanas adverts. There is a playlist available but for a flavour of what to expect, check out this 3-minute video about when the nanas could have been replaced by robots:

HA! Robots? Producing food! Can you imagine! Look at those conveyor belts churning out slate after slate of shredded wheat. Like some kind of… production line resulting in mass-produced, identical, flavourless nutrient-blocks! I’m glad that never caught on, eh?


What is this? Robots? Robots made of glass? Why aren’t these jobs being performed by sprightly little grandmas?! WHAT IS THIS?!

But then again my own nan doesn’t know what a SIM card is. Obviously they’re similar in size and shape to a shreddie, which might cause some unfortunate confusion. Having a shreddie in your phone might not be a disaster but getting a SIM card in your breakfast would ruin your morning. Unless it was like a special prize or something I guess. But even then it’s a pretty crappy special prize.

02 advert sim card phone advert glass factory
They do not look fun

Anyway, if we have to have robots in the workplace then this is probably the best place for them. The robots are only organising the SIM cards by size after the cards arrive in this… distribution centre? But who knows where the plastic chips were actually made. Maybe the factory is just as damaging as Croc’s was in the Kellogg’s advert. SIM cards are made from copper and plastic, which aren’t exactly eco-friendly. They do not occur naturally, unlike chocolate wheat-shapes or grandmas. There are probably shipping containers full of SIM cards being moved between continents as we speak, just to be flung into the intestines of massive glass robo-factories.

While O2 has literally made their factories transparent, I feel they missed the basic point.

02 advert sim card phone advert glass factory 
Time for tubby bye-byes?

I think every big company should do films like these. Some films could even be longer than thirty seconds, and maybe go into detail with actual data and independent research. If they started aggressively promoting documentaries about their clean, responsible manufacturing centres then it would be excellent PR. The only reason they wouldn’t is if their factories are exploitative or damaging. Unless we see otherwise, can we all just assume things haven’t been fixed?


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