*Originally published on our publishing group’s site SimpleBlitz.com
Ever noticed how perfect a burger looks in a commercial, but when you buy one it’s always a squished mess? These are some of the creative and surprising tricks used in commercials and ads, that make us consumers believe the picture perfect image we’re being sold.
That’s not chocolate sauce
Just looking at these pictures can make your mouth water, but hang on…That’s not actually the delicious chocolate syrup it looks to be. It’s simply glue mixed with food coloring.
Actual food can melt or look unappetizing in minutes, and since shooting commercials takes hours, producers often use inedible things that can be made to look like food. On that note, that chocolate ice-cream isn’t real either…More on that in a minute.
The glossy noodle look
Stir fry with noodles always look so deliciously moist, glistening even, on the small screen. But anyone who has made noodles at home, knows they never look like that no matter how much soy sauce you add. So how do they do it?
The answer is – glucose syrup. They pour the syrup on top of the dish, which makes sure the noodles stay juicy looking and way more appetizing.
The coffee cup to the right looks like a perfectly brewed cup of java, and you can almost smell the delicious aroma through the screen. But on the left, you see how the producers made the coffee look that way.
Yes, that is indeed a spoonful of soap foam that’s being added to the cup of black coffee. Actual coffee foam disintegrates too quickly, which makes for much less appealing pictures.
Juicy looking fruits
Strawberries really are pretty looking berries, and as such are great to use in food commercials. Whether used on their own, or as decorations on cakes or bowls of cereal, they can make anything look more appealing to consumers.
However, sometimes even strawberries aren’t enough on their own. So a common commercial trick to make them have a more powerful and juicy red color, is to paint them with nail polish or lipstick.
There are tons of commercials trying to sell us the beloved breakfast staple that is cereal. But you might have noticed those tempting cereal bowls look a little too good to be true. Actual milk makes cereal soggy in about two seconds. But soggy isn’t an attractive look, so how have the commercial wizards solved this problem?
The answer is yet again – glue! That’s right, the “milk” you see in commercials is glue, which is thick and can keep the cereal and pieces of fruit prettily sitting on the surface throughout the entire shoot.
Perfect serving of fries
To anyone who thinks commercials don’t work, can you look at this top picture and honestly say it doesn’t immediately make you crave fries? Didn’t think so.
But we all know actual fries don’t look even half as good as they taste. So for commercials, they carefully arrange them with the help of toothpicks and a sponge, as can be seen in the bottom pictures. Simply genius.
Never-melting ice cubes
No soda commercial is complete without plenty of fizzy bubbles, fresh slices of lemon, and that delicious sound of ice being plopped into the beverage. So how do you use ice in commercials, considering how quickly it melts? The answer is, you don’t.
Instead, the ice-cubes you see are made out of plastic. So that way, no matter how many hours the commercial takes to shoot, the beverage keeps looking cold and fresh.
Grapes as seen in fruit bowls that appear in paintings, pictures, or commercials, always look just a little too curated and perfect to be real. Here is one example of how you can manipulate the grapes to appear so plump and perky they’re almost gravity-defying.
A few toothpicks and some string holding parts up, goes a long way. The result is a cluster of grapes that perfectly decorates the fruit bowl, with zero drooping.
We told you we’d go into the secret of fake commercial ice-cream, and now the moment has arrived. We just hope this doesn’t ruin ice-cream commercials for you…
When shooting ice-cream, the product will melt and look disgusting so quickly you’ll never get that money shot. So instead of the real deal, they use mashed potatoes and food coloring. That’s right, mashed potatoes can easily be made to look like perfectly creamy ice-cream (but once you know the secret, all you see is mashed potatoes!)
Fresh seafood tricks
Seafood is the royalty of cuisine, and this expensive delicacy isn’t something most can afford on a daily basis. Which is why the commercials for this specific food are always oozing elegance and fine dining.
But seafood is expensive also for commercial producers, who can’t waste a fortune on batches upon batches of perfectly cooked seafood, because of how quickly it looks bad. So, they just use a mixture of water and glycerol to glaze one batched of shrimps with – and that one (inedible) batch will look fresh and juicy throughout an entire day of filming.
That mouth-watering grilled glaze
That perfect, golden-brown, glistening chicken looks like the kind you wish you could make. But spoiler alert, you definitely can’t. And that’s not due to poor cooking skills.
In commercials, they use shoe polish on chicken and other types of meat, to achieve that golden-brown crust and juicy looking moisture all at once. In reality, if you cook your chicken until it’s that brown, it might look a little dry…
A special brand of mozzarella cheese
Mozzarella cheese might be the single most important ingredient in making pizza commercials mouthwatering. Or, at least what appears to be mozzarella cheese…
As it turns out, that delicious cheese-pull we see when the pizza slices are separated, is not just cheese. It’s mozzarella mixed in with generous amounts of glue. It makes the cheese stringier and thicker looking, but to achieve that look with only cheese would require insane amounts, which would make the dough fall apart under the weight.
Burgers in commercials look like literal masterpieces. The lettuce is fresh and bouncy, the buns light and fluffy, and no layer imposes on the one above or under. How?
The trick here is simple and old-school, no CGI or fancy cameras needed. You just need to use toothpicks as pillars in between the patties and toppings. That way they almost float on top of each other, making the burger look taller, bigger, and more aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
If seafood is expensive to use in commercials, imagine caviar! Even a tiny jar costs a minor fortune, so consider the amount you would need for a commercial. But the industry has been using a tried and true trick for years, that managed to fool us all.
What you see isn’t actual caviar, it’s cheap corn mixed with tomato sauce and glucose syrup (to make it more glistening). The results speak for themselves – that top image looks more like caviar than caviar does!
Not real maple syrup
A stack of pancakes drenched in maple syrup – is there any better way to start a lazy Sunday morning? We doubt it. But the ingredients that go into a real pancake breakfast are not the exact same that go into the shooting of a commercial about a pancake breakfast.
What you’re looking at in the picture above, is not maple syrup. It’s motor oil…This inedible oil doesn’t absorb into the pancakes the way actual maple syrup does, which gives the producers more time to get all those mouth-watering shots.
Fluffy looking tacos
Real world tacos suffer the same issues burgers do. They’re messy, often squished, and he fillings fall all over the place right from the get go. But not in the magical land of commercials. Here, tacos look flawless, thanks to a very simple trick.
That’s right, you are looking at tampons behind the scenes of this taco. But once the taco has been folded, you would never guess they are there.
The appearance of cold, fresh fruits and veggies
The whole selling point of fresh fruit and veggies, is that they are fresh. So that’s the look they go for in commercials. But how do they achieve it?
Well, there are several methods involved, but a central one is talcum powder and hairspray. That’s right, the powder and spray combo creates that chilled, dew tint on fruit, as if they were just taken out of the fridge before serving.
It’s the same car in every car commercial
So far we’ve focused on foods on this list, but there are plenty of other categories of commercials where some very eye-opening tools and tricks are used. Such as in car commercials.
For example, regardless of what car you’re seeing a commercial for – you’re actually looking at the same one. That black, weird looking automobile is a mime that can mimic the width and height of any car. Then in post production, the outside and inside is changed with CGI. This is cheaper and easier than using the actual cars the commercials are about.
Self-tanning grilled chicken
That’s right, a fake tan can look just as good on on some pretend grilled chicken as it can on you. Rather than wasting time actually grilling a chicken for a commercial, the raw bird is used as is, simply with tanning spray on it.
The entire chicken is coated and patted dry, and then the producers just have to wait for the color to settle. This saves time, keeps the chicken looking big and plump (as actual cooked chicken shrinks), and will ensure the chicken looks freshly grilled for the entire duration of the shoot.
Want to achieve that fluffy-looking, commercial layer cake? Don’t bother, unless you want some cardboard and glue with that serving of cake.
In real life, even a generous amount of frosting or whipped cream between the layers, will get squished between them, and pour down on the sides. In the commercials, cardboard with some glue is used, as can be seen in the picture. This maintains the cake’s shape, and makes the glue look like the fluffiest whipped cream ever.
Here’s yet another way the producers of commercials make pizza look so divine. Small screws are hidden underneath pieces of pepperoni, tomatoes, or olives, to make them unmoving when a slice is pulled out.
Because normally, as you probably know, mayhem ensures when you tru to grab a slice. Cheese and toppings get pulled off, and you usually have to put them back onto the dough (after which the pizza no longer looks very pretty).
The satisfying brewing effect
Tea leaves put in hot water in a commercial, will immediately start bleeding a gorgeous, golden brown color that makes us almost smell the tea through the screen. So why doesn’t it look like that when we do it at home?
Because, those tea leaves on TV have been pre-boiled in water saturated with reddish brown food coloring, then dried, then put in ethanol, and then put in clear, hot water right as the cameras start rolling. The ethanol helps the tea release all that color quicker than you can say “tea commercial”.
How does instant soup with veggies and noodles look so good in the commercials, but so sad when you make it in your own kitchen? The answer is, the producers aren’t showing you the real soup that you then get convinced to buy.
They instead mix agar-agar with warm water, which makes jello, and then top it off with garnish, veggies, and bouillon. Then, some soup is poured over it all, and the veggies that are sitting on the jello appear to be floating. Voila!
Perfectly golden toasted bread
Trust us, there is nothing wrong with your toaster just because your piece of toast doesn’t come out looking like they do in commercials.
They need the perfect color for the cameras, and therefore sitting around toasting a bunch of bread slices isn’t efficient. Instead, they use food coloring to paint the surface and edges of the bread in various shades of gold and brown.
Keeping those sodas fizzy
In soda commercials, the bubbles just never seem to end. And that’s thanks to a secret ingredient we don’t advise you to add in your soda.
The producers simply pop some aspirin in the beverage before shooting, which gives a much longer lasting fizz than what you get if you just pour the drink over ice. This is a cheap and clever trick that has been used basically since the beginning of soda commercial, and as of right now CGI has not made it obsolete.
Us humans have mastered the most impressive, and creative tricks in the book when it comes to making commercials. But, certain things need a level of precision or speed that humans simply don’t master. That’s where the robots come in.
Special robot arms are often used in commercial work, to for example pour caramel sauce onto a brownie in a perfect pattern, spray ketchup onto a hot dog in an explosive slow-motion take, or mix colors together in an impressive show. The options are endless.
Perfectly grilled patties
Those black marks on a grilled burger patty, that’s what shows you the meat has been grilled to perfection. Only, in commercials they cheat a little to achieve that look.
Since no one wants to waste time actually grilling the patties, and thereby making them shrink and go dry, commercial patties are undercooked. Then the grilled lines are added by applying a thin, scorching hot rod.
The hot steam look
See that subtle steam above this baked potato and bacon? Hot food just looks more appetizing, but since actual hot food cools down pretty quickly, you can’t rely on it for commercial work. The solution is dry ice.
You simply put a bowl of dry ice hidden in or behind the food that’s being filmed, add some water, and it will release what looks to be steam from the hot dish.
Frosting on glasses
That dew or frost on an ice-cold glass containing a cold beverage, that’s an image that can really make your mouth water on a hot summer day.
This effect is created by spraying glycerol onto the glass before filming, and unfortunately doesn’t really happen in real life. When you pour yourself a soda, the glass will at the most get foggy and wet, not dewy and frosty like in the commercials.
No fast food commercial is complete without all those delicious, colorful sauces. Ketchup, mayo, mustard, fire sauce – the more the merrier! But guess what, what you see in those spoons in the bottom picture isn’t any of your favorite sauces.
They’re the result of melting those colorful cubes in the top picture. And those cubes are simply colored wax. Wax has a more vibrant color than actual sauces, and also doesn’t absorb into food, therefore looking more yummy on top of it.
Not as tasty as actual whipped cream
We think you can probably guess by now, that this is not whipped cream. Because nothing is as it appears in the world of ads and commercials.
The delicious looking fluffy white stuff on top of cakes or ice-cream in commercials, is nothing but regular shaving foam. It’s cheap and it doesn’t melt, but it has the same color and stiff peaks as actual whipped cream. Sometimes it’s even frozen, so it can stay in the exact same place and shape for hours on end.
Preventing garnish from sinking
If you’ve ever hosted a dinner party, and wanted to garnish that soup, gratin, or chocolate pudding – you probably got super annoyed that the garnish kept sinking into the dish before your guests even arrived.
So to avoid tis very natural effect in commercials, small bowls are used under garnishes. A bowl turned upside down and put right in the middle of the dish gets hidden by the liquid, but will still hold the garnish up.
Hairspray literally everything
Hairspray is a commercial producer’s best friend. This versatile spray is great for everything from an actual model’s hair, to fruits and veggies. The simple product is how they make fresh produce look so moist, fresh, and mouthwatering, whereas the fruits and veggies in your own fridge look pale and boring.
Which is why they make you reach for the phone to order a pizza, even though you promised yourself you would make a salad…
We’ve all seen those commercials for serums, hair masks, or leave-in conditioners, that turn the model’s hair from dull and matted, to shiny and bursting with color. But then when we buy that product, the result far from lives up to the hype the commercial created. So what’s the trick here?
The truth is, hair shown in commercials is rarely real hair…Instead it’s synthetic wigs, which have a shine normal human hair can’t really achieve without a ton of styling products.
We’ve already mentioned how hairspray is commonly used to make fruits and vegetables look fresher and more appetizing in commercials. Here is yet another popular industry trick.
Deodorant is frequently used, much in the same way as hairspray. Especially apples and other fruits with hard, glossy surfaces will get an impressive shine boost (and a nice albeit unnatural smell) with the help of a little deodorant spray.