Unilever Pulls Ad Suggesting a Child Coming Out as Gay is Like a Bullet Through a Father’s Heart


How this would even get to the photography stage is astonishing.

The Independent reports:

The advert seemed to suggest that receiving the news that your child is gay was comparable to receiving a bullet to the heart. Imposed on a pink background the commercial featured a bullet with the words “Uhh Dad I’m Gay” flying towards a heart made of china.

Lowe and Partners, an advertising agency based in Johannesburg are the company responsible for the design of the advert, though it was Unilever, the firm that owns Flora that was criticized for the advert.

The company’s twitter feed apologised for the campaign, saying:

“This advert was prepared by an external agency in South Africa and was not approved by anyone at Unilever. The advert is offensive and unacceptable and we have put an immediate stop to it. Unilever is proud of the support that our brands have given to LGBT people, including our recent campaign for Ben & Jerry’s on equal marriage.”


  1. TampaZeke says

    Had the bullet had read, “Flora margarine” the ad would have been much more accurate and would have actually done a service to the public.

  2. JMC says

    What the hell is this even trying to advertise? I don’t get how this grossly homophobic print ad could even be relevant to anything short of ex-gay therapy.

  3. says

    I agree, I have no idea how this made it past the concept phase.

    However, in real life, it’s pretty accurate. And in some ways, it’s okay. A parent (especially if they are older and the world is moving too fast for them to keep up) that is a parents initial reaction.

    And after coming out? We have to educate ourselves to the group we are now associated with and our parents will either come with us, learn with us, stand still, or work against us.

    The end result isn’t presented here, just the bombshell that the words “I’m gay” can have.

    I (personally) find it accurate… but still inappropriate for ANY ad campaign.

  4. Jack Ford says

    I have absolutely NO idea what this has to do with Flora? Flora is good for your heart, finding out your son is gay is bad for it? It’s beyond me and totally offensive. So many dads these days just accept who their children are. Most can see it coming and don’t care. This isn’t the 80s.

  5. Chris says

    Just a little background here. The ad was commissioned by the margarine company through a South African agency, for that market. While incredibly offensive, Unilever execs immediately denounced the ad in strong terms as soon as they learned of it. What else should Unilever have done? While some may think that every ad, for every localized subsidiary, is run through the parent corporation, in the real world that doesn’t happen.

    Expressing astonishment that something “got to the photography stage” in South Africa is a little naive. Had it been produced in the US or Western Europe, then it would be surprising. In South Africa? The fact is that in the legal system, South Africa probably has equal Or better protections than the US, but when it comes to social acceptance, South Africa is a dangerous place. Amnesty international lists many offenses including multiple “cure rapes” ….so why is it astonishing that this was produced in that culture?

  6. Jack Ford says

    @Chris – I’m not astonished, I just don’t get the ad. I don’t really blame Unilever either. It was just a big f-ck up that they put right as soon as they found out about it.

  7. Fenrox says

    Its an ad for margarine, so yeah, a totally unnecessary addition. There isn’t anything wrong with the imagery though. You can’t discredit reality, the reality is for many, MANY fathers a son’s coming out will be an ordeal, to think that all fathers just be ok with it is fantasy. Also, it’s important to know that even the cool dads that are 100% ok with it might still experience this feeling.

    It should however be tied to something in a related wheelhouse. Like that would be a wonderful ad for pflag.

  8. aleugene says

    Lowe & Partners, an (singular) advertising agency is (singular) the company …. But, then, your lousy grammar suits the awful advertisement.

  9. Michael Heynz says

    Thank God my Father wasn’t some ignorant fool in the continent of Africa brainwashed by ignoramuses just using them for cheap labor.
    Poor fools.

  10. Jay Dwyer says

    Jackhoffsky and Fenrox, while your assessment that for some fathers, this may be their experience… In the real world, ads sell products. What about a bullet to the heart says: Hell yeah, I wanna go out and buy that right now?

    In the real world, cars and Burger King burgers don’t come with a half dressed woman…but that doesn’t stop advertising companies from making the comparison…in order to sell a product.

    The copy for this ad is: “You need a strong heart today.” Cheerios uses kids to make dad realize he needs to take care of his heart (whether Cheerios does a blessed thing for his heart or not).

    The ad was deliberately queer bating to sell a product to people. Its not the message and whether it could be equated with today’s reality…its about selling products and what does any NEGATIVE perceptions about having a gay child have to do with selling any product?

  11. Fenrox says

    @Jay, Yeah that’s why I said it was a bad ad for margarine.

    It wouldn’t be for pflag, it wouldn’t be selling anything, and it would be a clear and wonderful message to send to the guys who DO feel that way and getting them to change. If I was a dad struggling with a gay kid I would probably go to pflag if this was an ad they had, or whatever group, because I would be looking for a way to get past that feeling.

    Again, it’s a terrible ad for butter-replacement.

  12. Yeek says

    If this was a simple art piece, I would really like it. It provokes a lot of tough feelings about coming out: doing it even though we know it will cause pain to people we love, the fragility of our parent’s expectations, the implied painstaking process of putting the relationship back together, etc. etc.

    As an ad for margarine, it sucks. Is the heart a ceramic butter dish or something? The problem is we don’t know what kind of person is behind creation. A person who still feels the sting over his parents’ rejection? A parent who feels devastated and can’t hide it? Someone who wants to come out but is afraid to? Or is it some homophobe who thinks gay people are basically the equivalent of murderers?

    On the flip side, it certainly has created a lot of brand recognition. Whether this works or harms the seller remains to be seen.

  13. Andy says

    So… margarine is good for your heart… and margarine can fix a broken heart after your child tells you he’s gay?? I’m so confused.

  14. says

    @ ALEUGENE: grammar police must first be learned themselves. In British-style English, companies (since they are usually made up if multiple people) are considered plural nouns. South African English will follow those rules.

  15. Rob says

    I had an affair with a closeted Unilever executive. I doubt he was behind the ad, but this was definitely his opinion – that if he had come out it would have killed his family and his career. He was very successful and closeted so assumed those things went together. My coming out ended all chance we had at a friendship. Interesting.

  16. C.PENN says

    There is nothing wrong with the ad whatsoever.

    There are such petty minded people around. Its not like it was child or animal abuse either.

    For heavens sake, all of you should grow up a bit and realize that everyone to his own.