Activia and Actimel products are primarily marketed to young and middle-aged women as leading to better digestion. Originally the adverts also emphasised a flatter belly, but this seems not to be the case any more. Adverts are also starting to reduce claims about health, emphasising “faster digestive transit” (i.e. food passes through the body quicker). Recent adverts in the United States feature Jamie Lee Curtis (YouTube video from Starling Fitness):
Jamie Lee Curtis: First the bad news. 87% of this country suffers from digestive issues like occasional irregularity. No wonder! Our busy lives sometimes force us to eat the wrong things at the wrong time. Now the good news. I just discovered a yoghurt called Activia that can help.
Voiceover: With a natural culture Bifidus Regularis, Activia eaten every day is clinically proven to help regulate your digestive system in just two weeks.
Jamie Lee Curtis: The other good news – Activia tastes great.
The advert asserts, through the device of “news” to lend a sense of factual information, that a large majority of people suffer from digestive problems occasionally. Jamie Lee Curtis reassures viewers that this is normal, which is intended to make the viewer feel grateful towards her and engender a sense of intimacy and trust. If the viewer feels this trust, it is then used to suggest Activia as a solution. The suggestion seems to be that Activia is some kind of medication for a medical problem, but this is only implied. The fact that it “tastes great” is used to take away some of the associations with prescription medications.
In a 2005 UK television advertisement for Activia yoghurt a woman in her late thirties / early forties is visiting her similar friend who offers her something to eat. The visitor, feeling “bloated” declines. The host says that she used to feel the same until she started eating Activia because it is “full of a new culture called bifidus digestivum which improves the performance of your digestive tract”. When the host turns her back the visitor “steals” the yoghurts by putting them in her handbag. As the host turns around and notices the yoghurts have gone, she feigns surprise and they both laugh. (You can view the advert here, but it requires a paid registration).
The advert is intended to engender a feeling of intimacy and personal recommendation – the product is not only being used by “someone like you” but she is so pleased with it she will recommend it to her close friend. This “recommendation” style of advertising is common in this product area, including Yakult television adverts.
Marketing materials for Activia and Actimel contain many important qualifiers and are contradictory. For example, compare the Canadian Activia website (Danone Activia – Bifidobacterium Lactis) – “The beneficial effects of certain bifidobacteria are many: they contribute to protein and vitamin metabolism, exert anti-microbial activity and possibly act on intestinal transit” – with the UK Activia website – “When eaten every day, Activia is scientifically proven to help improve slower digestive transit”