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Company: Unilever
    View Company Scorecard / Contact Company
Brand: Cornetto
Ad Title: Surprise
Business Category: Packaged Foods
Media Outlets: Television
Country: United Kingdom
Region: Europe
Agency: McCann
Year: 2004
Target: Mainstream
Ad Spotter: Stuart Vessey
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Theme(s)

Trans Beauty

GLBT Punch Line

Homophobia/Transphobia

Theme Breakdown

AdRespect Score: 
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In what appears to be an opera, a bikini-clad girl approaches a guy in swim trunks. He is eating a Cornetto ice cream cone.

"New Wall's Cornetto… give it to me," she sings to him. Three of his buddies, sitting nearby, look over in awe at the gorgeous woman singing to their friend.

"It's rich chocolate ripple," he replies. "What's in it for me?"

In a deep voice, she tells him, "I'm a man." Then she sings, "Surprise, surprise. Give me Cornetto and…" She holds out her hand and whispers, "I won't tell the guys."

Five angry viewers complained about this ad to Ofcom -- the British body responsible for standards of taste and decency in British TV advertising. They said that the advert contained a “negative message that being a transsexual or being associated with one was something to be ashamed of."

Ofcom spoke with the ad agency, which said, "The intended humour was the man's surprise when the woman revealed her past, in the context of getting his Cornetto. It added that the overriding strategy of the Walls Cornetto campaign was to depict ice cream in the context of modern love scenarios. A man being attracted to a woman (who was once a man) was seen to be an example of a contemporary situation that is increasingly possible in mainstream society."

Further, the agency stated, "The BACC said the transsexual character was shown to have the upper hand and was not portrayed in an obviously negative light and that the joke was on the male friend. It felt the humour was to some extent the awkwardness of mistaken identity rather than any cruel attempt to ridicule transsexuals. It added that generally, the appearance of a transsexual theme in advertising could be seen as a sign of society's increasing acceptance. Consequently barring such humour would be a regrettable backward step. On clearing the advert it felt it was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence."

The complaint was not upheld; Ofcom explained that they did not feel that the advertisement "over-stepped the mark."

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Jaclyn Cady , Pasadena, CA
The really nasty thing about this ad is that it directly reinforces the idea that trans women are "really" men and that they're out to trick guys into being gay or blackmail them with being gay. This is the entire basis for the "trans panic" justification for assault and murder against trans women, and it is absolutely sickening.
Pam , Cupertino, CA
No genuine TS man would ever say "I'm really a woman" and no TS woman would say "I'm really a man". I feel that the whole damn point of transition is that one feels they are essentially not the same gender as their body happens to be. This line is so tired.

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