Is the advertising industry homophobic?
It’s the question of the year.
Today there is a guy with a funny walk being shot at by Mr T in a 4×4. Before
that it was Nike and its Dunkin’ ad. Bob Garfield has got so fired up he wrote
a letter about it to John Wren. Is it a storm in a tea-cup?
Today we are talking about
the Mr T Ad who shoots Snicker bars at a guy speed walking through
Is it gay bashing? OK, he
has a funny walk, but really it is difficult to speed walk without wiggling
your hips a bit. It doesn’t mean you’re gay or that gay people walk funny. It
just means you are a speed walker.
Mr T attacks him because he
is walking and not pounding the streets like a runner. He says he pities him
and that he is a disgrace to the man race? See nothing much to get worked up
about. Besides Mr T is a solid wall of testosterone. It was the Mekong Delta
that made him that way.
The campaign is jokey and some
might say cruel and violent. It could also be seen to encouraging bullying, but
I don’t think it is.
The scenario depicted in the
AMV London ad is clearly humorous and is part of a long-running campaign that,
from its conception, has put humour at its heart, delivered via the booming
megaphone voice of mockery that is Mr T. It is knockabout fun, it really is.
How can something that fires chocolate bars be anything else?
Bob Garfield at Advertising
Age got himself worked into a huge lather and took it upon himself to write an
open letter to Omnicom CEO John Wren. He argued that the latest Snickers ad
follows a trend coming out of Omnicom-owned agencies that is essentially gay
In the case for the
prosecution he begins by citing a two year old ad from BBDO Detroit for Dodge
Caliber, which featured a tough guy snorting the words “silly little
fairy” at a Tinkerbell-like pixie. It was part of a long running “Anything
but cute campaign”.
Again it is funny and the
pixie gets the last laugh. I liked it, I liked the focus group one as well.
The pixie in the ad I hasten
to mention is not a lipstick lesbian, just a stand-up, run-of-the-mill, Lord of
the Rings-type pixie who wants to turn the world into a toy box wonderland land, which means there is no place for the secret service-like black suburban vehicle.
Garfield then cites another Omnicom spot, this time from TBWA,
New York. It
is also for Snickers and was its Super Bowl spot. In this one, two mechanics chew
on the opposite ends of a Snickers bar until their lips meet in an accidental
“Quick do something manly”
and they both rip chest hair from their bodies. It’s quite funny. It isn’t laugh-out-loud funny as you can see the joke coming a mile away, because the set-up is
lame playing on the general dislike straight Anglo Saxon men have for kissing
other men. I mean that’s fair enough, we’re not French. Bob should get that.
Garfield even admitted the ad while “wasn’t exactly
homophobic” he said it was about homophobia and “men’s deepest sexual fears
Worse, Garfield said, was the Mr T ad. “The
sentiment behind it is simply sick. John [Wren]: three Omnicom agencies, three
outrages. It is time for you to intervene”.
He goes on in his open letter
to Wren to ask how he can be “so insensitive, how could you be so shallow,
and how could you be so mean?
“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.
I think Wren will be resting
easy. The ads Garfield
talks about are mixed humour wise, but homophobic they are not. The Garfield
Gaybashometer needs to be retuned and to get a sense of humour. No one was hurt
in the making of those ads, not even the little pixie. Her message was don’t
mess with me as I will turn you into a preppie. That’s a harsh punishment to
deal on anyone. So don’t mess with the pixie/fairy. Whatever.
Coincidentally the criticism
of these ads comes as Nike pulls an ad that has been accused of sending out anti-gay
The controversy broke last
week when ads for Nike’s new Hyperdunk basketball shoes broke and someone at Nick Denton’s New York media blog gawker.com
asked the question: does “Nike hate gays? Or do gays hate basketball.
The ads concerned as you can
see features basketball players getting dunked in apparently what is considered
the worst way possible with the dunker dangling off the rim and his
undercarriage in the face of the dunkee.
I’ll have to take Gawker’s
word for it that this is bad as I know nothing about the world of basketball.
The Gawker piece strikes me
of being guilty of the same thing that Garfield
is guilty of and that is reading too much into the ad. The blogger concerned
even writes leaving aside my unrelated
general hatred of Nike”. Well, I’m not sure we can.
In the case of the Nike ad
sport is a fast, sweaty and occasionally painful business. Bodies crash into
one another and like all things in life someone always ends up on top whether
you are dunkin a basket ball, sliding into home or scoring a goal. It’s a
sweaty scramble. Anti gay? Well I wouldn’t want to have someone’s balls in my
face, but then I don’t get a hard on thinking about scoring a basket. No hoop
Gawker argues that the
campaign with its lines “That Aint right” is based on the implacable
homophobia of straight jocks. “That can’t be denied”.
No probably not, but that
isn’t the point. Who, gay or straight, wants someone else’s balls in their