We’ve all seen the ads.
A party guest turns into a touchy Joe Pesci. A football player becomes a liability to his team as Betty White. Marcia Brady takes on the likeness of a vengeful, axe-wielding Danny Trejo. Only one thing can restore their true identities: a Snickers bar.
This iconic, years-long ad campaign is built around the slogan “You’re not you when you’re hungry.” A Snickers bar, the pitch goes, can return you to normal when you find yourself sluggish, irritable—in a word, “hangry,” a portmanteau combining “hungry” and “angry.”
Until now, these ads have confined themselves to low-stakes social situations: a pickup football game, a casual party, a family squabble. Now, however, Snickers is stepping into a larger world, humbly offering itself as a solution to the monstrous hanger that has disfigured our entire civic discourse.
On November 16, Snickers launched the “Hungerithm” in the United States following its initial success in Australia.
It works like this:
The Hungerithm (an algorithm that measures hunger) analyzes around 14,000 social media posts per day, checking them against a list of 3,000 common words and phrases. Supposedly, it even understands sarcasm. It uses this data to generate an internet anger rating that’s updated every 10 minutes, and, as the anger rises, the price of a Snickers bar at 7-11 convenience store falls.
For example, at 2:20 p.m. on November 21, the internet was “pretty chill,” resulting in a paltry discount of eight cents. 20 minutes earlier, however, the internet was “furious,” knocking $1.02 off the price. On Monday night, I stopped at my local 7-11 on Rhode Island Avenue, and thanks to the Hungerithm, shaved forty-eight cents off the sticker price of $1.49, a savings of 32 percent.
“The internet is an angry place,” the Australian launch video for the campaign admits, but then it asks “what if that’s just because we’re hungry?”
It’s a solution that’s almost absurd in its simplicity. In a time of Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein, and double-length tweets, we have plenty of legitimate reasons to be angry, none of which are caused by hunger.
But what if they were? What if the fix was truly as simple as having a Snickers bar? There’s a message buried in Snickers’ decision to position their candy bar as a cure for political rage (which the launch video lists alongside bad weather and meteor impacts as possible explanations for spikes in internet anger), and that message is that when we allow ourselves to be divided and infuriated, we aren’t acting like ourselves.
In our political climate (to use a phrase I’ve grown tired of hearing), it’s tempting to feel as though there’s nothing larger than our disagreements. Half the news stories I’ve heard today have been about how to prepare for the inevitable political arguments that will flare up at Thanksgiving dinner. GQ Magazine is urging its readers to fulfill their “civic duty to ruin Thanksgiving by bringing up Trump,” and a recent study found that a majority of Trump supporters are equally ready to slug it out at the table. Perhaps Snickers would make a good Thanksgiving appetizer.
What the Hungerithm offers us is an opportunity to step outside our division and anger, maybe even to laugh at them. This is not to say there aren’t real problems in our society. There are. We aren’t just hungry. But maybe from time to time we can pretend that’s all it is.
A simple case of hanger. Nothing a Snickers won’t fix.