Outside the world of the hamster cage is a pet store, and a biracial male couple approaches. One has a '70s-style mustache and is wearing a tight white T-shirt with army dog-tags around his neck, the other with black leather pants, a black tank top exposing a band-tattoo, and many rings.

The men point at the critter and shake their heads in agreement with a smile, as the critter tries to escape from its cage.

The screen then reads, "We do. That's why we give bonus airtime to our best customers." The tagline: See red. Then see Virgin Mobile."

The meaning of this unaired ad is obscured and can go in very different directions. One possible read is a perverse reference to an urban myth about Richard Gere (or gay men) and gerbils for sexual use. Another is the possibility of morally suggesting that those who don't live their lives properly (gay men in this case) may return as a "lower" life form, such as a hamster. Still another read may be that they are simply trying to say that gays are their "best customers."
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Company: Virgin Group
    View Company Scorecard / Contact Company
Brand: Virgin Mobile
Ad Title: Hamster
Business Category: Telecommunications
Media Outlets: Television
Country: United Kingdom
Region: Europe
Agency: Y&R
Year: 2002
Target: Mainstream
Ad Spotter: Robert Stein
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Theme(s)

Age Diversity

Racial Diversity

Same-Sex Couples/Families

GLBT Inclusion

Leatherman

GLBT Punch Line

Homophobia/Transphobia

Theme Breakdown

AdRespect Score: 
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A cuddly Teddy Bear hamster goes about his hamsterly business in a cage, eating some food out of a dish, running on the wheel.

The text asks viewers, "Ever worry about reincarnation?"

Outside the world of the hamster cage is a pet store, and a biracial male couple approaches. One has a '70s-style mustache and is wearing a tight white T-shirt with army dog-tags around his neck, the other with black leather pants, a black tank top exposing a band-tattoo, and many rings.

The men point at the critter and shake their heads in agreement with a smile, as the critter tries to escape from its cage.

The screen then reads, "We do. That's why we give bonus airtime to our best customers." The tagline: See red. Then see Virgin Mobile."

The meaning of this unaired ad is obscured and can go in very different directions. One possible read is a perverse reference to an urban myth about Richard Gere (or gay men) and gerbils for sexual use. Another is the possibility of morally suggesting that those who don't live their lives properly (gay men in this case) may return as a "lower" life form, such as a hamster. Still another read may be that they are simply trying to say that gays are their "best customers."

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Robert Stein , Philadelphia
I don't really like it. I see it as saying the gerbil is about to be bought by the gay men and is running away from them at the thought. Any commmercial featuring gay men and gerbils is negative to me.

Todd Hill , Montreal
What an insulting and tasteless piece of garbage. I partially disagree with the site's existing trio of analyses of the possible meaning of this ad. Whether or not felching is implied to be involved, the animal is clearly NOT happy about being chosen by a gay couple - hence its mad scramble to escape up the corner/walls as the ad ends. Clearly being purchased/adopted by a gay couple is seen as highly undesirable (which in itself is a laugh/insulting considering that NO pet has as good a life as those pets fortunate enough to become the "children" of gay people). Thanks again Virgin Mobile. This further reinforces my already titanium-strong committment NOT to put any $$$ whatsoever into Richard Branson's pockets for CDs, plane tickets, etc. If I ever see him in the street when next in London, I'll bitch-slap him silly and damn the consequences.

Richard Phillips , Hollywood, CA
Even more disturbing than what has already been pointed out is the fact that, taken as a whole, the advertisement doesn't even convey what nature of client product is supposed to be sold here. Turn off the volume and watch this; without graphics there is a terrible 'forcing' of themes which might make some viewers feel indifferent to the specific and or implied thematic elements (gay? or whatever) because of the sheer strangeness of the commercial overall.

John Koopmann , Austin, TX
The point of the commercial is that if Virgin Mobile doesn't treat its customers right, those responsible, Branson, may not have such a pleasant afterlife if reincarinated as a gerbil. The ad makes fun of a preposterous urban legend I'm sure almost no one thinks is a common homosexual activity. My god, your reactions suggest most gays actually stick animals up their butts with regularity and nobody should pass judgment on a common aspect of gay life. Pleeze! Or should we be mad the gerbil is homophobic? Maybe the animal isn't homophobic but just doesn't want to be stuck up somebody's ass. If the same outragous urban legend existed about some hetrosexual couple, wouldn't we think it funny while realizing nobody really does that? That having been said, if anybody is into this......... :)

Bil , Minneapolis
Both these guys are stereotypes (which I don't find negative, but you say you do) and the central theme is perpetuating a negative belief that gay men "play" with hamsters. I find this ad extremely offensive.

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