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Critic Hits Out at Ad Agency Head Over Homophobia

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Ad Age critic Bob Garfield has written a scathing open letter to John Wren, the CEO of Omnicom. Garfield was pushed over the edge by the latest Snickers spot from AMV BBDO, London, one of the corporation's ad agencies. Like two other spots, one for the Dodge Caliber (created by Omnicom agency BBDO, Detroit) featuring a couple of 'fairies', and the first well-known Snickers Super Bowl ad (created by Omnicom's TBWA, New York) which featured two mechanics who accidentally kiss and then force each other to do something "manly" to rid themselves of the gay, a new Snickers spot features the same type of effeminate stereotyping and bullying.

PowerwalkerWrites Garfield:

"Now, from AMV BBDO, London, another Snickers spot, in which a butt-wiggling race walker is just too effeminate for Mr. T's liking. The snarling scourge of all things sissified chases after the guy in a pickup. "You a disgrace to the man race!" he bellows. 'It's time to run like a real man!' -- whereupon the terrorized wimp is mowed down with a candy-spewing Gatling gun and admonished to 'Get some nuts!' The pun behind the campaign is obvious, adolescent and unfunny. The sentiment behind it is simply sick. John: three Omnicom agencies, three outrages. It is time for you to intervene. The Super Bowl ad, at least, was grounded in something real. It wasn't exactly homophobic; it was about homophobia and men's deepest sexual fears about themselves. Why that issue would be the stuff of candy-bar advertising is an open question, and a good one, but there was nothing genuinely malevolent in the televised spot. This new Mr. T commercial -- like the online wrench attack -- is explicitly malevolent and beyond the pale. So unseemly, so perverse, so beneath you."

Check out Garfield's full letter, and the new Snickers clip, AFTER THE JUMP...

Related
The Dodge Caliber and Fairies [tr]
Snickers Super Bowl: "Quick, Do Something Manly" [tr]

(via mediabistro)

***An Open Letter to Omnicom President-CEO John Wren from Bob Garfield, AdAge***

Dear John:

Two years ago, from BBDO, Detroit, came the spot for the macho subcompact Dodge Caliber. It featured a burly tough guy snorting the words "silly little fairy" at a Tinkerbell-like pixie, only to be magic-wanded into a mincing, sweater-draped girly man. The execs at Dodge and BBDO said the connection between a storybook fairy and the epithet "fairy" never occurred to anyone in the organization. But, of course, they were lying.

In January 2007, from TBWA, New York, there was the Snickers Super Bowl ad: two auto mechanics, chewing on opposite ends of a candy bar till meeting in an accidental kiss. The incident struck them as so repulsively gay they commenced trying to cleanse themselves via a chest-hair-ripping display of manliness. The accompanying website offered alternate endings, such as one guy attacking the other with a wrench.

Now, from AMV BBDO, London, another Snickers spot, in which a butt-wiggling race walker is just too effeminate for Mr. T's liking. The snarling scourge of all things sissified chases after the guy in a pickup. "You a disgrace to the man race!" he bellows. "It's time to run like a real man!" -- whereupon the terrorized wimp is mowed down with a candy-spewing Gatling gun and admonished to "Get some nuts!"

The pun behind the campaign is obvious, adolescent and unfunny. The sentiment behind it is simply sick. John: three Omnicom agencies, three outrages. It is time for you to intervene.

The Super Bowl ad, at least, was grounded in something real. It wasn't exactly homophobic; it was about homophobia and men's deepest sexual fears about themselves. Why that issue would be the stuff of candy-bar advertising is an open question, and a good one, but there was nothing genuinely malevolent in the televised spot. This new Mr. T commercial -- like the online wrench attack -- is explicitly malevolent and beyond the pale. So unseemly, so perverse, so beneath you.

This is from your own statement on corporate responsibility: "As a leader in the communications industry, Omnicom Group is committed to ensuring that we use our position to promote socially responsible policies and practices and that we make positive contributions to society across all of our operations." Is that so? My guess is that the parents of Matthew Shepard, the Wyoming college student beaten to death for being too effeminate to suit his killers, would take a different view. Because your commercial is just a cartoonish recapitulation of their son's brutal murder.

Since you are the executive ultimately in charge of both TBWA and BBDO, I ask you: How could you be so insensitive, how could you be so shallow, and how could you be so mean?

This letter is to you, but it is equally to your colleagues throughout the industry. Are you so bereft, of ideas and simple humanity, that you must be reduced to stereotyping and bullying? That you must identify an "other" to ridicule, or worse? That you must build a brand on the backs of people who have harmed no one save for challenging a high-school locker-room standard of masculinity?

Stop the dehumanizing stereotypes. Stop the jokey violence. There is no place in advertising for cruelty. Pull the campaign. Do it now. Then tell your agencies how to behave. Or else.

***END***

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Comments

  1. Crispy, they are not making fun of speedwalkers. Mabye you could argue that they are making fun of MALE speedwalkers. But why? Because their wiggling hips and yellow short shorts make them look gay. Which of course means that they should be shot with a snickers gun. That's the joke and it's plainly homophobic.

    I'm honestly kind of shocked that there are people defending this ad; and I'm not one to scream "homophobia" every time I'm confronted with a gay stereotype in advertising. What is truly and inexcusabley offensive to me is the gun imagery and violence in response to stereotypically "gay" behavior (or male effeminate behavior, if you prefer to charactarze it that way).

    Posted by: DARB | Jul 22, 2008 1:01:30 PM


  2. I eat no Mars products because of these adds. I haven't in over a year and I used to eat at least 1 Snickers a day.

    Posted by: Art | Jul 22, 2008 1:01:48 PM


  3. Yeah, I really hate the ad. My comment to JASON was another issue...but then again, maybe not. This ad reminds me of the kinds of insults people like me had to endure in inner city neighborhoods, and delivered by idiots like Mr T.

    The gay speed walker part should've been played by m; and when Mr T shouted, "you a disgrace to the man race," I'd reply, "yeah, and you're a disgrace to another race." See, that's how you do it, JASON: retaliate against the individual--not his race or ethnic group.

    But you know what? There are many gay men & "closet cases/down low" guys that would say the same thing about the speed walker as Mr T did.

    "Get some nuts!"

    "Yeah, but sure I DON'T want them smelly-assed bat wings you got down there, fool!"


    No wonder I got gay-bashed so much. I couldn't keep my mouth shut.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Jul 22, 2008 1:23:11 PM


  4. Wait, Darb, I'm not defending this ad at all. Don't put words in my mouth.

    The ad is juvenile and idiotic and misogynistic. And frankly, a candy bar company mocking any form of exercise seems pretty repugnant.

    I'm just trying to bring some perspective. Hate on it for the right reasons.

    RobbieP's comment said it way more eloquently than I've been able to.

    Posted by: crispy | Jul 22, 2008 1:34:41 PM


  5. No worse than any other stupid, lame, offensive TV ad out there, and there are many ads on TV right now that are just as homophobic (if that's what this really is, instead of just juvenile and idiotic) that they could easily fill a week, or two weeks, of entries on Towleroad.

    There are bigger things to worry about. Seriously.

    Posted by: Frank L | Jul 22, 2008 1:46:04 PM


  6. Crispy and RobbieP, you can't be so dense as to not see the blatant homophobia in this ad.

    Derrick, get a life re: your response about black stereotypes. Jason made a good and correct point about the hypocrisy of some members of other minority groups (being bigoted for pay, in this case).

    Posted by: Shane | Jul 22, 2008 1:56:18 PM


  7. Whether "Crispy" [sic] sees an attack on 'metrosexuals,' or the majority of us see the ad for what it is, a simple, painful, fact remains: As a society we are so quick to be contemptuous toward the feminine or effete. One of the most damning accusations that can still be made to a boy is to accuse him of being a girl. When some male sports coaches want to completely shame their teams, they denounce them as female. If the players need fortitude on the field, they don't need 'guts' or a 'spine'--they need to 'grow a pair.' They must be men. Homophobia is the ugly sibling to this execration and enmity.

    Posted by: Laurence Ballard | Jul 22, 2008 2:29:30 PM


  8. SHANE,


    Yeah..."the hypocrisy of 'some members'...." yes, go after "some members"-- why insult the entire group? So, what happens when we black gays criticize all white gays for the actions of a few white gay racists?


    "good and correct point..."

    SHANE, then why does that "good and correct point" seem to offend so many black gays who visits Towleroad when we discuss this issue. To offend all black people may be "good and correct" to you, not me.

    You can tell Mr T (or any other homophobic black bigot) that he is wrong. You do not have the moral authority to chastise black people in general.

    If you turn homophobia into a racial issue(because, remember, the black homophobe has NOT singled out WHITE gays for insult) then I have to respond to your racism accordingly.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Jul 22, 2008 2:54:21 PM


  9. Keep in mind when your shopping for your next snack that these ads were BOUGHT by the Snicker's company. Omnicom/BBDO created, pitched and sold these homophobic ideas to a willing, happy client.

    Posted by: Marco | Jul 22, 2008 3:23:17 PM


  10. Crispy (and all his or her) supporters are just plain ignorant.

    "You're a disgrace to the 'man race'...
    It's time to run like a real man."

    That's the quote.

    It's Homophobic. And ignorant.
    The ad clearly has hit it's target audience.

    Posted by: MCnNYC | Jul 22, 2008 4:31:44 PM


  11. "Crispy (and all his or her) supporters"

    I'm comfortable with either pronoun, honestly.

    Posted by: crispy | Jul 22, 2008 4:43:40 PM


  12. This ad is clearly homophobic and bullying and only a person with a low iq or conservative straight politics would think otherwise,come on,this ad is the worst and its meant to show that feminine traits deserved to be met with violence,are there people who really dont see that,wow,thats the ads intent and for the bigots or pretend gays here who defend it,shame on you,gay rights didnt happen because of people like you,thats for sure.

    Posted by: Chad | Jul 22, 2008 4:52:50 PM


  13. Holy shit, Chad! You really should consider finishing high school grammar before accusing someone else of having low IQ.

    Posted by: crispy | Jul 22, 2008 5:08:02 PM


  14. No reasonable person could separate the homophobia from the prescriptive masculine stereotypes in this ad. Short-shorts on a man are commonly coded as gay in popular culture, especially in low-brow comedies. Swaying one's hips (if you're a man) is also coded as gay in popular culture. So the gay stereotypes are are unmistakable. I think any modern viewer who sees a man wearing short-shorts and sashaying down the street would make the connection with gay men. Also, popular culture constantly reinforces the idea that having a slender build is not masculine -- it could mean that you're gay, but it does mean you're a wimp, whether you are gay or not. That's why Mr. T's doing the criticizing, he has masculine credibility because he's muscular. "Competitve walker? That's a contradiction in terms! He's no athlete, athletes are football players, athletes are muscular and tough! Don't be gay and wimpy like a competitive walker. Be tough and masculine like Mr. T." Indeed, Snickers satisfies . . . your masculine paranoia.

    Posted by: I Heart Ryan Reynolds | Jul 22, 2008 5:18:02 PM


  15. And for the racewalkers - hey, it's an ORIGINAL Olympic sport! Respect the gold!

    I'm also positive that even a beginner racewalker could outpace Mr. T. I don't racewalk, but I walk marathons, and I double dare Mr. T to make it the whole 26 miles with me.

    Plenty of sports "look silly." A quarterback with his hands between the center's buns. Basketball shorts that look just like my mom's culottes instead of the manly shorts of the '70's.

    Snickers are my favorite bar, but they are now on my "do not eat" list.

    Posted by: Wendy B | Jul 22, 2008 6:31:45 PM


  16. I don't know about the speedwalker versus gay debate on here, but i do know this ad is shit.

    Posted by: james | Jul 22, 2008 8:36:10 PM


  17. Okay, maybe it is a little homophobic, but I thought it was funny. Speedwalking is the worst-looking sport after rollerblading. Who hasn't wanted to shoot one at one point?

    Posted by: Tom | Jul 23, 2008 11:28:12 AM


  18. Shouldn't we be just as upset with Snickers (Masterfoods) for hiring this agency? In Feb 07 they reportedly said "heads will roll" over the Superbowl anti-gay snafu.

    Posted by: SFBrian | Jul 24, 2008 1:37:22 AM


  19. I have read the similar news at the bisexual community, Seekbi.com which is free meeting and dating for bisexual, bi-cuirous, bi couple.

    Posted by: selinapory | Jul 24, 2008 3:11:41 AM


  20. I don't like the anti-gay, pro-gender-role message in this ad, but the more important issue here is that there are only three potentially moral reasons to aim a gun at another person - war, law-enforcement, and self-defense.

    The ad shows none of these, and is therefore inappropriate. If my ad agency suggested selling my product with this sort of advertising, they would be summarily dismissed.

    Posted by: Andrew K | Jul 24, 2008 9:32:30 AM


  21. Oh yeah...never mind the promotion of eating a Snickers bar vs. getting some exercise is promoted as "Getting some nuts". Puhlease...too many Snickers will not get you into the kind of physical shape that will get you laid.

    Posted by: Andrew K | Jul 24, 2008 9:37:00 AM


  22. Please read 1 corinthians 6:9 - 10.
    Thanks!

    Posted by: True man | May 30, 2010 7:47:51 PM


  23. « 1 2

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