Behind the Scenes

Cool 2B Real

The initiative: The cattle industry wants to promote beef to teenage girls online. The result: “Cool 2B Real.” Our reporter sneaks into the boardroom and tells us how it really happened.

at the first meeting at Circle 1 Network, a marketing company that specializes in getting brand messages to kids age three and up, creator of

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Rep: …I came home one night and my daughter was eating a garden burger. I offered her a steak, and she told me she was done with meat. Done with meat!

Salesperson: [toadying] Wow.

NCBA Rep: So I ordered some surveys. We found that well above one percent of pre-teen girls, are questioning a lifestyle rich in beef. To the point that they don’t eat meat at all.

Salesperson: That’s vegetaria–

NCBA Rep: We don’t use that word. We use terrorism. This is a cattle country.

Salesperson: [makes note]

NCBA Rep: These girls, they’re not eating beef. And they won’t feed their children beef. Without a next generation of meat-eaters, the cattle industry will fall to shreds. [roots in bag] So we thought, these kids use the web, so we have to reach them there. Here—the research. [hands over 2,000-page dossier] The pre-teen girls of America are in your hands.

Salesperson: We’ll get ‘em before they know what to think.

later, at the agency

Salesperson: So, we’re promoting a beef-rich lifestyle to girls. The site is called Cool 2B Real. It promotes self-esteem.

Designer: That name’s final?

Salesperson: Final.

Designer: Because I was going to suggest Cool 2Have Colon Cancer.

Copywriter: As long as I don’t ever, ever have to caption a photo of a girl using a cell phone with the words ‘At my soccer game, I totally kicked and missed. (Smiley Face). LOL. It’s cool to be real. C-U-L8R,’ I’m fine.

Art Director: I’m a vegetarian.

Salesperson: We don’t call it vegetarianism any more. It’s terrorism.

at a meeting with the board of the Cattlemen’s Association; the Creative Director runs a PowerPoint slideshow

Cattleman A: It just doesn’t speak to me.

Creative Director: Can you be more specific?

Cattleman A: I lack that capacity, actually.

Creative Director: Well, our research has shown that kids love rap.

Cattleman A: Could we hear it again?

Creative Director: Jim?

Copywriter: [ashamed, rapping] Tired of hippies busting out with what to eat? Never say sorry when you love to eat meat.

Cattleman A: Does that say real? This is about being real.

Cattleman B: If it wasn’t for that bitch Oprah—

Cattleman A: Not here.

back at the agency

Creative Director: [angry, worried] It’s easy, goddamnit. Self-esteem and beef. Just put them together. We have all night to finish. I’m getting coffee. [storms out]

Designer: Grab me some mad-cow disease while you’re out! [holds up her hands, moves them up and down] Job, soul. Job, soul. Job. So I guess it’s pinks and blues with lots of daisies.

Art Director: Jim?

Copywriter: Yeah?

Art Director: I’ve got a stock photo of a girl with a cell phone. I want you to put in something with text messaging, something she’d say. Something that says self-esteem.

Copywriter: [very, very tired] Not a problem.

at the one-hundred thirty-fifth presentation to the client

Cattlemen: [in unison] Have you destroyed anything original about the website, as we asked?

Creative Director: We have destroyed anything original about the website, as you asked.

Cattlemen: [in unison] Is there stock photography of a totally generic nature?

Creative Director: Yes, there is.

Cattlemen: [in unison] Is the copy totally predictable, so that no one will react to it in any way?

Creative Director: It is totally neutered.

Cattlemen: [in unison] Good. You have done well. We will pay you within 90 days.

after the launch

Creative Director: Well, it’s over.

Copywriter: [aside] What have I done? I am the Iago of nutrition!

Designer: I know I should feel guilty, but my salary allows me to buy name-brand aluminum furniture.

Art Director: when the economy is better, I will tithe 10 percent of my salary to PETA.

[salesperson enters]

Salesperson: Have any of you ever heard of Dow Chemical? They want to reach 10-year-olds from India with a chemistry-positive message.


TMN Contributing Writer Paul Ford is the author of Gary Benchley, Rock Star, a novel that was originally serialized here on TMN. He was formerly an editor at Harper’s Magazine, was an occasional commentator on NPR’s All Things Considered, and is now sole proprietor of (which has a Facebook group). More by Paul Ford