On November 22 2020, a Reddit user shared the following image to r/facepalm, which purported to show a Giant Food “super spread” advertisement:
The post, which was an image captioned, “No way this went unnoticed,” included an advertisement for Thanksgiving 2020 highlighting a fruit tart, a fruit and cheese platter, a cheese board, and a shrimp cocktail ring. Text beneath the items read:
HOSTING? PLAN A SUPER SPREAD.
It’s easy with our entertaining offerings. Order platters, trays, entrees, desserts, and more!
Images of the Giant Food “super spread” ad also circulated on Twitter:
— Marie Porter 🇨🇦 (@OverlordMarie) November 17, 2020
Google Trends revealed a spike of interest in the advertisement, which in the context of the global COVID-19 pandemic and public health experts’ warnings to avoid any and all gatherings whenever possible in order to avoid becoming a “superspreader” was taken as ill-timed and poorly-phrased. Related searches included “Giant Food super spread,” “Giant Food super spread ad,” and “Giant weekly ad.”
Posts about the ad circulated alongside Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warnings to Americans about travel and gatherings ahead of Thanksgiving:
The CDC has updated its recommendations to strongly advise that people stay home for Thanksgiving to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
It comes less than a day after the U.S. surpassed a quarter-million deaths from COVID-19.https://t.co/IfRtas0H9o
— NPR (@NPR) November 19, 2020
The juxtaposition of the warnings around Thanksgiving alongside Giant Food’s purported use of the phrase “super spread” (to describe a large and appealing array of Thanksgiving foods) led to some confusion over whether the advertisement had been digitally changed or doctored for a darkly humorous effect.
Twitter users tagged Giant Food (@GiantFood) in tweets describing the advertisement as “gross” or asking “Really?” In response, Giant Food’s official Twitter apologized for the verbiage used in the advertisement, indicating the image was in fact authentic and not altered by pranksters on social media:
— HJ Armstrong (@HJArmstrong) November 19, 2020
This is not the message we intended, and we apologize. We wish you a safe and healthy holiday season.
— Giant Food (@GiantFood) November 19, 2020
In mid-to-late November 2020, the above Giant Food “super spread” ad spread on various social media platforms and in Facebook comment sections, due to the brand’s apparently inadvertent usage of “super spread” to mean “large and varied selection of foods.” In 2020, a year defined by a global, virulent pandemic, the term “super spread” carried a tremendous amount of baggage — for which Giant Food’s representatives subsequently apologized on their social media pages. Finally, although Giant Food clarified that the phrasing was chosen in error, its viral spread (so to speak) was fairly predictable under the circumstances.