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Company: Unilever
    View Company Scorecard / Contact Company
Brand: Marmite
Ad Title: Lifeguard Kiss
Business Category: Packaged Foods
Media Outlets: Television
Country: United Kingdom
Region: Europe
Agency: DDB Needham Worldwide
Year: 2003
Target: Mainstream
Ad Spotter: Mitch Nelson
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Theme(s)

Homo-queasy

GLBT Punch Line

Theme Breakdown

AdRespect Score: 
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A lifeguard on a beach eats a cheese and Marmite sandwich. When a man begins to drown, the lifeguard jumps into action, pulls him back to shore where he gives him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

The victim, now revived, pulls the lifeguard's head towards him and begins to kiss him back. The company's press release then described the lifeguard as "Desperately trying to pull away from the man, the lifeguard is unable to escape until the revived man finally comes to his senses and releases him."

The makers of Marmite incorrectly claimed the ad to be the first to contain a same-sex kiss, which is untrue for gay men or lesbians, as well as for England, Europe or elsewhere in the world. The first same-sex kiss aired anywhere debuted in Denmark in 1993 for Politiken newspaper.

Unilever says the commercial was not intended to be controversial, but simply continued the theme that people either love or hate the taste of the spread. (Marmite is similar to Australia's smelly Vegemite spread, made famous by the 1980s Men at Work song, "Down Under".)

"There is nothing in the advert which could cause offense," said a Unilever spokeswoman.

Dozens of viewers had complained to the independent television commission that the ad portrayed a gay kiss and was screened at a time when children might be watching. However, the British ad oversite organization ITC ruled that the kiss was a "clearly jokey scenario" and did not portray "homosexual intimacy or indeed sexual or romantic activity of any sort."

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David , Sydney
As a lover of the "smelly" Vegemite sandwich I thought the concept behind the ad was good - it is a taste that hangs around. However, I am disappointed that it was presented with the lifeguard struggling to get away and, indeed, jumping away. Such a polarised response in negative and unnecessary. I like the surprised look on the face of the rescued swimmer. A humourous contribution to the pathetic debate on what makes someone gay.

Mike Quinlan , Seattle
But what about the drowing victim? I love the idea that he may be discovering more than just the fact that he loves the taste of Marmite here!

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