New Quaker Oat Campaign, and the Dawn of an Oatmeal Trend

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Quaker ad at the corner of 49th Street and 9th Avenue in New York City

I first spotted the new Quaker oat campaign last weekend on a huge billboard in Manhattan facing the Hudson. "Go humans, go." Just three words next to a close-up face shot of the iconic William Penn. His smile is creepy, but I guess you can get away with creepy when you're a figurehead for warm bowls of breakfast goop.

Calling us humans though? That somehow brings him back to creepy status. Is he differentiating us from aliens? And where are we going? To a twisted oatmeal cult land where we all wear Quaker hats and have awesome cholesterol? (Not that I wouldn't mind checking that out.) Something about the wigged man's national campaign, which launched this month, seems apocalyptic—not a word usually associated with the fibrous flakes.

What is up with oatmeal these days?

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It's all over the place.

Chains like Starbucks and Cosi are selling to-go bowls in the morning, with Jamba Juice (the best in my opinion) running a $1 promotion this month. An episode of Top Chef this season opened with an oat-themed Quickfire.

The Quaker Oats brand has a Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube pages. A glitzy Times Square ad. Oprah's former personal chef, Art Smith, has become a traveling spokesman for Quaker.

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And New York Times columnist Mark Bittman cannot get enough of the little grain. He fearlessly plugs savory oatmeal (yes, wrap your head around that one), especially in his new book Food Matters.

Oatmeal is entering a golden age, and shoot, who's complaining? Cheap, easy, and stickable to your bones, oatmeal is like the best friend everyone wants. It's down for whatever (nuts, dried fruits, various milks), can get ready in a jiffy (at least in instant packet form), and isn't remotely pretentious (just a peasant food behind all the toppings). And with this new campaign, oatmeal has proven it's also a bit creepy. But really, who isn't?

It's the latest in the humble-to-haute comfort food revival trend, and if that means people will stop yapping about bacon and cupcakes for a second, I say, show us what you've got little oat.

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