“Ads Gone Bad” – But at Least They’re Trying

16 09 2008

BloggingStocks has a blog series called “Ads Gone Bad.” The latest post talks about racist ads, specifically, the Salesgenie Super Bowl commercial featuring cartoon pandas with Chinese accents. You can click here to read the blog, which includes a link to the ad (http://www.bloggingstocks.com/2008/09/05/ads-gone-bad-pandas-arent-cute-when-theyre-racist-salesgenie/). The blog also includes a link to YouTube videos featuring offensive cartoons, including beloved Bugs Bunny during WWII.

When it comes to creating good television commercials, there’s a fine line between funny and offensive.

There’s a commercial running on Israeli TV that I saw in a “Funniest Commercials” television show that features a bunch of Jewish men singing and dancing in what I believe to be Hebrew, as well as English, to tout YES HDTV. These men sport black coats and hats and did I mention they are singing to the tune of YMCA? And they even mention “you will all go to Hell” for what I assume is for not buying this HDTV, although I can’t really understand what they’re saying around the “going to hell” line.

AdWeek recently posted on article on its Web site (http://www.adweek.com/aw/content_display/news/agency/e3i1e343e9ca0d6f68b35eb2d0669abdfcb) that talks about offensive gay-themed ads being pulled for being either homophobic or to homo-friendly.

One commercial that I suppose came the closest to getting it right was by Levi’s jeans. Levi’s produced a commercial with two alternate endings: in one, a man walks off with a woman; in the other a man walks off with a man. The commercial even won an award at the Commercial Closet Association’s fourth annual Images in Advertising Awards. The Commercial Closet Association is a nonprofit organization that promotes the positive use of GLBT references in the media. 

Others that did not get it right and got pulled were commercials for Snickers and Nike.

A Snickers commercial for the U.K. market was pulled because of complaints from gay-rights advocate groups.  The commercial showed ’80s icon Mr. T shooting candy bars at an effeminate speed walker while admonishing him to “Get some nuts!” The advocate groups claimed this commercial promoted negative gay stereotypes. I agree, but I had to admit I laughed when I read the “Get some nuts!” line. But I think that line would be funny no matter what context!

A Nike commercial that aired in the U.S. showed basketball players’ faces in between the legs of opponents above them dunking balls while wearing its line of Hyperdunk basketball shoes. The headline said “That Ain’t Right.” It’s not okay for men to be between other men’s legs? Pull it, then.

On the other end of the spectrum, the same agency that did the U.K. Snickers commercial produced a Heinz Deli Mayo commercial that was pulled for showing two men kissing. TV viewers said the ad was offensive and unsuitable for children’s eyes.

So it seems as though advertisers are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Try to be inclusive and the general public gets upset. Try to be non-inclusive and gay-rights activists get upset. It’s going to take a while to get the formula just right, but it’s a good step forward for our society that these commercials are even on the air. My personal hope is that one day two men or two women kissing on a commercial will not be seen as wrong and will simply be seen as two people who care for each other showing their care and love.

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