For the world of advertisement, seeing isn’t actually believing. The prettier it looks, the better it is thought to be. Ever wondered why the food in front of you doesn’t seem half as tempting as it was advertised? It’s all the art of filming and photography as well as a book full of (shrewd) commercial secrets. Here’s a rundown on some of the most compelling advertisement tricks that will fool even the most cynical audience.
Shoe Polish to Grill
Shoe polish is a much-used material used in food commercials. It provides that distinct brown color on top of various foods, like chicken.
If you are disappointed because the chicken you are cooking is not coming out with the same beautiful, shiny, golden-brown crust on top just like that of the recipe you followed, then there’s a high chance that you saw an enhanced version of the dish. Believe it or not, there was no actual cooking to begin it. It was all the magic of the shoe polish’s color!
Glossy Noodles Are Fresher
Even after being stirred for multiple minutes on high heat, how do the noodles on that TV advertisement look that juicy, while the ones that are made at home are definitely drier and crispier? You thought you’re cooking it wrong?
Most probably not. For the commercials, after the noodles are cooked, special glucose syrup is poured on top. The noodles appear more succulent, and you are instantly drawn towards them. Clever, huh?
Mashed Potato: The Replica Ice-Cream
Making ice-cream commercials can be difficult, given its tendency of melting in minutes. What if they could use something that looks like ice-cream on photos but holds the shape much longer? For that, mashed potatoes are mixed with food coloring and scooped onto a cone.
Sprinkles and toppings are added to make it look even more realistic. You wouldn’t be able to tell the difference until you ate it. Now the producers have much more time to get a better shot of the ice-cream. Don’t worry! They most certainly won’t serve this to you in stores.
Cotton Pads Inside Tacos
The tacos that are advertised on TV commercials just seem like they were filled with meat, condiments, and garnishes in every corner. Going to buy one and seeing it with your own eyes is a whole different story. Did the producers just trick you with their “cotton pads” trick?
Cotton pads are dipped into water, which causes them to swell up. Those are then placed right in the midsection of the tortilla, stuffed with a little filling, and folded into half. This taco is evidently thicker and taller, and something that could satiate your hunger with one serving.
Toothpicks as Pillars
Hamburger commercials have to be some of the best out there. The buns, patties, veggies, and condiments are arranged with such finesse that the audience is bound to give in and grab a burger. However, hamburgers can be a tricky thing to film.
Due to the overwhelming weight of all the fillings, it might collapse at times, and look like a hot mess. To prevent this, food stylists prepare each layer with much care. Everything goes in a fixed position, and then toothpicks are inserted to secure it. Not only does this hold the burger well, but it also adds a generous height boost.
Coloring Toasts Brown(er)
The toaster in your house is good, but it’s just not giving that beautifully browned toast shown in TV commercials, is it? There might be a reason. Toasting bread isn’t that difficult a task, but getting it to be the right color could be somewhat challenging when it comes to advertisements.
No, putting it in the toaster multiple times isn’t a good option because you might end up with burnt toast. To improve it for TV commercials, the surface of the bread is colored a crisp, subtle golden-brown on top of toasting.
Glue + Color = Chocolate Syrup
You would give anything to take a scoop of that delicious chocolate ice-cream being shown on the TV, wouldn’t you? Well, you absolutely shouldn’t. It’s not chocolate sauce that’s dripping from the ice-cream; it’s an inedible mix of PVA glue and food coloring.
It doesn’t soak into the ice-cream, and it stays in place, so the producers can film it without having to worry about replacing the bowl of ice-cream every 10 minutes. Imagine eating chocolate ice-cream only to realize you might have consumed some glue! That’s a real health hazard.
Tomato Sauce Caviar
Caviar could potentially cost an arm and a leg. Photographing it is extra challenging and way too expensive. Producers have an alternative to everything. Fake caviar made from tomato sauce looks so real that you wouldn’t even doubt it (unless you’re a caviar connoisseur).
This replacement looks shinier, and almost plumper on screen. There’s that added benefit of not having to stress over ruining caviar worth hundreds of dollars. The taste, however, can’t be guaranteed. Maybe if you really like tomato sauce, you would like it with your sushi.
Lipsticks Aren’t Just for Lips
Strawberries – such beautiful, bright, juicy looking fruits. You just want to reach in through your TV screen and grab that acai bowl solely for the strawberries. It would be good to know that most of the time, these strawberries get a generous coating of lipstick to deepen the redness on them.
They look much brighter and fresh on film because of this. Your local market doesn’t sell strawberries painted with lipstick; that’s why your strawberries aren’t that red.
Breakfast With More Glue
Cereal advertisements are a perfect example of what you think versus what happens in reality. Instead of milk, the bowl contains a layer of jelly topped off with PVA glue. The cereal bits are put on top with some additions, such as fruits.
Regular milk causes the cereal to get soggy really fast, and it disintegrates. A bowl of cereal that has been sitting in milk for a considerably long amount of time does not look appetizing at all. The producers really think of everything!
Ethanol With Colors Make Tea
Tea always looks a thousand percent better when it’s brewing on TV commercials. For commercials, the tea is put in boiling water with saturated red-brown food coloring. Afterward, the food stylists will take the tea leaves out and dry them with a hairdryer, followed by placing them in pure ethanol.
The tea loses the food coloring quickly, giving the attractive “brewing” effect. Food stylists will also use a special propeller to make the leaves move in an aesthetically pleasing “dance-like” manner. Who knew it took so much to make tea?
Give the Chicken a Tan
Self-tanning sprays are really popular when shooting commercials that advertise cooked/roasted chicken. The tanning spray gives the chicken a uniform layering of color, and you can even adjust the way you want it to look by adding more or less of it.
The producers coat the entire chicken with the color, pat it dry and wait for the color to settle in completely. This way, the chicken does not reduce in size during the cooking process or lose the freshness if the shooting goes on longer.
Robots Handle Intricate Details
Special robots have been used in the filming process for a really long time. They can do almost everything: arrange a sandwich or an elaborate dessert, spray ketchup, mustard, or milk on foods or create mind-boggling effects of colors mixing together.
Just think about those beautiful visuals in phone commercials that make you want to throw your current phone and get this one, just because of the advertisement. You get the point. A robot is doing it all with perfection.
Chilled? No. Talcum Powder
No wonder people don’t like veggies and fruits that much! The expectations created due to advertisements versus reality can be disappointing. Talcum powder is dusted on top of fruits and then spritzed with hair spray. Thanks to this, the fruits appear cold and fresh.
You can spot this in many refrigerator commercials. When the protagonist pulls out a bowl of fruits, it looks like they were grown in some faraway meadow and they are the nicest looking fruits you will ever see. It’s just talcum powder and hairspray; no frost, only truth.
Luscious Locks? Or Hair Extensions?
Tired of trying new hair products promising to give you silky, shiny, long hair as shown in commercials? Here’s the thing: the majority of times, the hair shown in commercials is either a wig or some extensions placed very carefully in the actress’s hair.
It is quite sad that achieving hair as they show is almost impossible because no hair product can do that. The right lighting paired with mirrors, and lots and lots of air and blow dryers are what create the illusion of glossy, thick, perfect hair cascading down an actress’s back.
The Blackbird Car Is a Mime
Brands want you to think that their car might help you survive a situation where the ground’s splitting in two, but mostly, the real cars aren’t even used for shooting. The Blackbird car replaces original cars because of the versatility it provides.
The car is fully adjustable and can mimic any other car. It can be lengthened by almost four feet, widened by a maximum of 10 inches, and the wheels can be altered to match the car it will be portraying. After filming, the outside and inside of the vehicle can be changed by using CGI.
Pretty Little Cardboard Cakes
Cakes are such fantastic food that, even without enhancements, they will still manage to get the audience to crave a slice. Even so, the food advertisers will go the extra length to make it look even tastier on screen. To hold the shape of the cake, bits of cardboard are placed inside each layer.
This way, the cake won’t collapse even if it has endured some strong shakes. The cardboard is then covered up with pumps of icing here and there. The finished product looks so good; no one would imagine there’s actually cardboard in it.
Arrange Fries on a Sponge
It’s such a bummer how the fries in an advertisement look like each fry was arranged by a food scientist to give the perfect serving of prices, but when you buy them, they look way too boring. That’s what it should look like, though.
For TV commercials, it’s just much more elevated. Multiple toothpicks are pushed into a small sponge that’s the size of the bottom of the bag. One fry is placed into a toothpick to create a neat arrangement, which is then put inside the main bag containing the fries.
Screwing in the Pizza
Here’s a trick that producers will use to enhance the appearance of the pizza (as if pizza even needs enhancement, right?). Small screws will be put inside different parts of the pizza, and some topping will be placed right on top of it.
This way, when a slice is pulled out, the slices next to it don’t come off or move from its position in the process, which usually happens when you’re eating non-screw pizzas (due to the cheese). Talk about caring for the visuals!
Fizz it Up With Aspirins
Aspirins are a common thing in most soda commercials. They can be used to create a long-lasting fizz in the drink since the natural fizziness dies down much quicker. This technique is great for making videos.
What might pass off to the common eye as a bubbly and frothy drink actually has antacids at the bottom of the glass reacting with the sodas. Regular sodas without anything mixed into it most certainly won’t have that much fizz.
The Cheese Is Glue
This one trick is simply brilliant but straight up disappointing. While filming pizza commercials, mozzarella cheese is mixed with a generous amount of PVA glue, which is then applied along the ridges of the slice. The slice is placed back inside the pizza to allow the glue to settle in.
Afterward, when the piece is taken out, long strings of “cheese” come out, fooling the audience into thinking that every pizza they buy will have cheese like that. To achieve this in real life, it would take an overwhelming amount of cheese, which no shop usually provides.
Fake Refreshing With Glycerol
Ah, the natural “frost” on the glasses in drink commercials! Always makes the drink look so much more refreshing and rejuvenating than it actually is. Yet, when you pour yourself a glass of cola, it’s just somewhat foggy with little droplets of water forming on the outside.
Where’s the frost? Spraying some glycerin on the glass could give that effect instantly. Producers will use it to tempt the audience to reach out for another drink because it just looks that thirst-quenching!
Jello Soup With Vegetables
The biggest reason people don’t like drinking soup but actually like the soup commercials on TV is probably that there’s something very different about the advertised soup. Agar-agar is mixed with slightly warm water and allowed to set.
It is then topped off with garnishes, vegetable bits, and bouillon. Then, some soup is poured over it. With pure soup, the vegetables don’t generally float on top, but with this trick, they do – which is why the advertised one just looks so much more appetizing!
Grilling Patties Like Nothing Before
Speaking of assembling burgers, ever noticed how the burger patties look so juicy, tender, and perfectly grilled at the same time? Technically, for a patty to achieve those beautiful grill marks, it would have to be cooked for a while.
However, this could dry out the meat, causing the burger to look relatively smaller in pictures. To avoid this issue, the patty is actually undercooked, and a thin rod is nicely heated up and used to leave marks on the patty. That’s why you may be underwhelmed if you see the burger in real life. It will still taste good, though!
Hairspray for Hair AND Vegetables
Noticed how the fruits and vegetables on TV commercials look much fresher, more natural, and almost juicier? Yet somehow, when you purchase the same things, they just do not have that look?
That’s because a generous amount of hairspray is spritzed onto these vegetables and fruits to give them a nice, glossy sheen, one you wouldn’t find in the average store-bought groceries. It’s very easy noticing the difference if a completely fresh bunch of apples is placed next to one containing hairspray.
Dry Ice Making Food “Hot”
Hot food looks way more tempting, doesn’t it? Photoshoots for commercials can take a long time, though. What if the food gets cold and there is no more steam coming out of it? Well, there are other ways to create that steam. Adding water to dry ice creates a soft smoke-like fog.
The dry ice is usually placed in a bowl, which is then placed behind the tray of food. The result? The steam rises up slowly and creates the illusion of a plate of food served straight off the wok.
These Fruits Smell Delicious
We’ve already shown you that commercial producers often use hairspray to make their fruits and vegetables look shinier, but another trick they use shocked us even more… Sometimes they use deodorant!
Who would have thought your run-of-the-mill deodorant would be used elsewhere in the world to make fruits look shinier and more delicious? However, we don’t recommend you try this at home as we think fruit smells better without it.
Fresh and Juicy Seafood
We want our seafood to be as fresh as possible and on a long shoot, producers need to find a way of making those shrimps look fresh and juicy all day, without cooking up batch after batch.
Who would have thought that using a mixture of water and glycerol helps to keep the seafood looking fresh for longer? Glycerol is often found in wound and burn treatments so it’s remarkable how anyone thought of this nifty trick!
Pump Up the Volume With Styrofoam
When your favorite hair care manufacturers are shooting their commercials, they often cheat their way to achieving maximum volume that you could only ever dream about. The style looks great from the front and sides…
But as soon as you turn the model around, you can see that she has styrofoam balls in her hair that not only help achieve ridiculous volume, but also volume that stays all day, to get exactly the right shot!
It’s a Steamy Time of the Month
We’ve seen how some producers use dry ice when filming food in order to make it look piping hot still, but if there’s no dry ice on hand, then maybe someone has a spare tampon we can use?
Tampons and cotton balls are soaked in water and then microwaved until they’re steaming hot, before being placed behind the food to create the illusion of steam rising from the dish. In any case, that’s not actually one hot potato.
If you’ve ever wondered why your grapes don’t sit in the fruit bowl in the same way as the pictures, it’s because the grapes in the pictures often get some extra help to make them look more plump and juicy.
After being sprayed with the obligatory hairspray (or deodorant) to increase their shine appeal, these grapes are then suspended in mid-air by a makeshift crane and string contraption, helping them to defy gravity and dangle ever-so-perfectly.
Machine Steamed to Perfection
Another trick we found producers using to make food look as hot as if they just came out of the pan or oven, is a steam machine. Longer-lasting than both the dry ice and tampon methods, this steam machine will produce steam for the entire shoot.
No running back and forth to the microwave and no refilling the dry ice bowl, the producers just have to make sure that the camera angle is just right to keep the steam machine out of the shot.
The Non-Leaning Tower of Sandwich
As a sandwich fan, you may like the look of this sandwich tower, but good luck with recreating it at home, as it would probably fall over long before you’ve finished stacking it all up.
However, putting some scaffolding behind it really helps. If you do ever succeed in making a sandwich this tall, please get in touch with us and tell us how you managed to eat it, we wouldn’t even know where to start!
Plump Up the Chicken
Those sneaky commercial producers have so many tricks up their sleeves! Another common way that they make a chicken look more plump and delicious is to stuff it with wads and wads of kitchen roll.
Even though we now know that this chicken is probably covered with fake tan, shoe polish, and stuffed to the brim with kitchen roll, it still looks so tasty. How the mind plays tricks on us!
Balloons Make Meats Look Juicier
Stop hating on yourself for not getting that perfectly juicy and meaty chicken out of the oven. Food advertisers may lead you to think that their chicken looks perfect, but this crafty trick includes blowing up a balloon and stuffing it inside the body of the chicken.
This makes it look much larger than it actually is. Cooking the meat properly can reduce its size, making it look deflated on camera. Undercooking it and filling it up with a balloon can make it appear fatter and more tender in photos. This can also be done with turkeys. So, don’t fall for the advertisements and assume you can’t cook the perfect meat.
Shaving Foam Versus Whipping Cream
This one is somewhat surprising. Why switch out whipped cream for shaving foam when whipped cream is perfectly capable of holding its shape? The answer is, whipped cream can lose its stiff peak after a while, losing the pretty view of the cake.
Shaving foam has almost the same texture but is much smoother to look at, and it also holds its shape perfectly for a longer time. A lot of times, piped shaving foam might also be frozen to keep the perfect structure intact. Can’t have the topping melting all over now, can they?
Glue: The Substitute for Chocolate
TV commercials on chocolate lava cakes are always so captivating. How the lava just erupts from the core of the moist cake the moment it’s cut into! The reality is often the opposite, though.
Finding a great lava cake that oozes the chocolate just as gracefully as the commercials can be frustrating because the commercials don’t actually have chocolate inside the cake. It’s a mixture of PVA glue, food coloring, and sodium tetraborate which forms small glue balls that melt as soon as they are placed inside the cake.
Garnishes on Top
Garnishes can be considered an essential part of the dish. Adding a lot to the visual element, they are the most crucial part of filming commercials as the producers need to make the food look appetizing for the customers to be intrigued by it.
What do they do when the garnishes are slightly denser and just keep sinking into a somewhat liquid food, like soup? Easy; they put in a small bowl upside down right in the middle of the dish. The bowl is small enough to be hidden by the liquid, but the garnishes stay on top.
Engine Oil Pancakes
Almost every time you see a plate of pancakes drizzling with maple syrup and garnished with some strawberries on your TV screen, you would want to run to your nearest café and get a serving. However, did you notice how the syrup on those TV commercials is always just sitting on top of the pancakes, but your pancakes usually take up all the syrup?
That’s because the “syrup” in those TV commercials is actually motor oil. The reason behind using engine oil is that it doesn’t absorb into the pancakes, giving the producers plenty of time to get a mouth-watering shot.
Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow
We’re sure many of us have seen multiple hair care adverts in the past that have made us very jealous of how long, thick, and beautiful the model’s hair is. But, surprisingly, the model isn’t always wearing extensions…
Because sometimes the extra hair is just stuck onto a backboard for the model to lie on! It looks strange but we guess at least this way, the producers don’t have to keep fixing the model’s hair every time she moves.
Achieving the Perfect Swish
Capturing the perfect action shot must be even harder to achieve than a still shot. Not only do commercial producers add extra hair to their models and utilize styrofoam and fans to create volume, but they also use… Green men?
It still takes a long time to capture a good “hair-swish” shot, but with the help of these green men, edited out of the shot later, the model’s hair is dropped from a height over and over again. Now that’s dedication!
Don’t Drink the Soap!
The foam on top of coffee looks very appealing, and it is generally easy to make. Then why would the producers want to replace it with soap foam? It is because regular coffee foam may disintegrate into the liquid after a while, and the perfect shot won’t get taken.
This is where soap foam comes into play. It sits on the top of the coffee for a much longer time, and the froth looks lighter and fluffier.
The Never-Melting Ice Cubes
Adding ice-cubes to a glass of soda just gives it that extra oomph, right? Producers want to use it too, but it’s really difficult when the ice cubes keep melting. That’s why regular ice cubes are replaced with plastic ice cubes.
The cubes look weirdly perfect because they are made of 100% plastic, which gives them that consistent shape. These cubes never melt. The advertisers can take up their sweet time picking out the best angles to shoot from.
Waxy but Bright Sauces
TV commercials with bright, silky-textured sauces being poured onto a piece of bread seem way too appetizing for something that is simply sauce on bread. It might be because it’s actually a fake sauce made from melting wax.
Colorful wax is heated and melted to form “sauce” that is then advertised to mimic the real thing. The faux one has a much more vibrant color in comparison to the original sauce, and it doesn’t absorb into any food, staying right on top and looking yummy.
Studios Cook Burgers Way Better
If you are interested in having a Big Mac anytime soon, you should try and find a way to get access to the behind-the-scenes of a McDonald’s commercial. It turns out that the studios behind these adverts give a lot more thought and care to how they prepare, cook and arrange their burgers.
Unlike other products on this list, the ingredients remain the same, but they are arranged at level far superior to your average McDonald’s burger.