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Company: DaimlerChrysler
    View Company Scorecard / Contact Company
Brand: Dodge Caliber
Ad Title: Too Tough
Business Category: Automotive
Media Outlets: Television
Country: United States
Region: North America
Agency: BBDO Worldwide
Year: 2006
Target: Mainstream
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Theme(s)

Sissies

GLBT Punch Line

Problematic Language

Theme Breakdown

AdRespect Score: 
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A female fairy is floating among city skyscrapers, transforming the drab buildings into towering gingerbread houses at the flick of her wand. Next, her magic touch render a dreary subway train into an oversized toy choo-choo.

When she attempts to presto-chango the featured, black automobile as it maneuvers the city streets, she is repelled by the car and thrust against the concrete facade of a neighboring building.

A tough-looking man dressed in black, walking his equally tough-looking dog, says, "Heh, heh, silly little fairy!" (It is the spot's only dialogue.) In revenge, she then turns him into a preppy, pastel sweater-dressed man now walking four small Pomeranians on pink leashes, suggesting Who's the fairy now? He reacts with an approving squeal.

The narrator says the new Dodge Caliber is "anything but cute."

The ad earns a Negative rating because it directly finds humor with the term "fairy" -- referring not just to the type that flies around with a magic wand, but also to the universally recognizable gay stereotype of an effeminate gay man. Frankly, it could end simply and appropriately with the female fairy being repelled by the car's toughness.

Chrysler's customer service department has received several telephone complaints, spokeswoman Suraya Bliss told the Detroit News.

"We were pretty surprised that there are individuals that are making the conclusion that sexual orientation can be determined by the type of clothes you wear and the type of dog that you're walking," Bliss said. "Are they suggesting that men that wear colored shirts are gay … or that all gay men dress alike? What we would ask someone to do is look at the ad for what it is."

The ad received a scathing review with no stars from Advertising Age critic Bob Garfield, who quotes the spokeswoman too. " 'Was it intentional? Absolutely not,' says Bliss, whose voice quavered as she spoke, perhaps because she was choking on the corporate line. 'It's not the kind of company we are.' "

Garfield continues, "But, of course, the corporate line is preposterous. Much more likely is that someone at BBDO realized they could call people fairies if their commercial depicted an actual fairy. Get it! How subversive! A flitty little fairy! We can imagine the hilarity in the cubicle as they contrived a way to set up the "Not for sissies" selling proposition based on an innocent magical fantasy.

"Look, there's nothing wrong with positioning an economy car as a car with truck values. In fact, "the manly subcompact" is a very good idea. You can even suggest that everything else in the category looks effeminate. Though political correctness is out of control in this society, you're still allowed to choose your own sexual demeanor.

"But what no advertiser has any business doing is calling people fairies, because it is cheap, because it is gratuitous, because it is hateful.

"Also self-destructive, undermining Daimler Chrysler corporate entreaties to gay and lesbian consumers -- not to mention the much larger sick-of-sexual-bullying population. But never mind the business consequences.

"There is simply no room in advertising for hate speech. Period. For the record, Daimler Chrysler and BBDO protest that this spot is obviously not homophobic because the guy with the lap dogs is a preppy type-as opposed to some flamboyant queen. Of course, the same people swear they were totally unaware of the "fairy" double-entendre. They say we're seeing things. We say they're living in a fantasy world, and it's anything but cute."

See the full Garfield review here...

According to David Kiley of BusinessWeek, "The point here is to make people think the Caliber is the brute, the non-fairy, entry in the newly emerging small-car category." His review exposes the Dodge Caliber as ranking sixth out of seven cars in its category. See his full article, Dodge Caliber and the Case of Fairy Dust .

Dodge's is the second spot in several months that has similarly used the word "fairy" as a thin reference to gay men, the other from the Nabisco "Snack Fairy."

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Toby , San Antonio
I think that "Fairy" is one of the more complementary words to use against us.

Dan , Seattle
I really think the tag line is meant to be "Anything but gay." Their not-so-subtle use of gay caricature at the end makes that abundantly clear. Shame on you Dodge and BBDO.

Randy , Johnsonville, NY
I find the commercial offensive, and want to know to whom at the Dodge/Chrysler corporation one would write to, to express my concerns! I was a loyal Dodge owner, but NOT anymore!!

Ronald , New York, NY
A bit disingenuous, to say the least, for Dodge's mouthpiece to feign ignorance or suggest that complaining viewers are the ones with bigoted preceonceptions (ie, men in colored shirts are gay); it's quite clear what the creative team's intent was here and though I'm sure they thought it quite funny, it's really rather mean-spirited.

Max , Evanston, IL
The flying fairy (female) is Disney-fying the masculine: skyscraper, train, and car. But the car--macho and, by implication, heterosexual--resists her efforts, and she is slammed against the wall: a misogynist conclusion to her normative fairy (Tinkerbell) behavior. The pedestrian is linked in our minds directly with the (black) car because he is wearing black and his dog is black: he is "we," the viewers, who because of our misogyny are transformed into the stereotype of the effeminate gay man. Thus, to drive the Dodge Caliber is to be protected from the feminine, which is "cute," and the injury, which is emasculization through homosexuality. Only the drivers of Dodge Calibers can be safe in this dangerous world filled with fairies and fairies.

Dave Sutton , Alpharetta, GA
It's a great commercial. I can't believe anyone is reading negativity into this. It is way better than Honda and Subaru spots I've seen. I can't wait to get rid of my problematic Toyota anyways. It has already put me in the poor house. I'll go look at a Caliber.

Bob , Bloomington, IN
The commercial is stupid to me first, offensive second. Yeah, they know exactly what they're doing with that last wave of the fairy's wand and the squeal of the guy with the dog. The car is nice, they just have an incompetent ad agency. Daimler/Chrysler, your stylish cars are already attractive to your LGBT market, a market which for the most part has $$$; just pull the ad and do that car justice; and fire your ad agency and hire one owned by LGBT folks, they're more talented anyway.

John Gazaway , Oklahoma City
I thought the chrysler ad was really funny. If we can't laugh at ourselves, we are in trouble.

Michael White , Ogden, UT
This is offensive.

Marc , Washington, DC
Given Chrysler's well-earned reputation for making truly crappy cars, it's hardly surprising that its advertising department would stoop to this sort of low-brow humor. Not only is this a really offensive ad (Hey, Chrysler, why not turn the guy into an actual fairy?), but the car itself is ugly as sin. Finally, Ms. Ignor...er, Bliss should go back to whatever school awarded her a marketing degree and demand a refund.

Mike , New York, NY
I was very happy to see the Dodge Caliber ad called out by Commercial Closet for its blatant gay baiting (“silly little fairy”). My partner and I were stunned the first time we saw the commercial. Dodge’s response is laughable – of course they knew what they were doing by turning a butch construction worker into a white-short-wearing preppy walking three fluffy lapdogs!

Tim Reeves , Berkeley, CA
There is no direct attack on sexual orientation here. Yes, fairy is derogatory of gays. But the macho thug gets it in the end! Pure karma! In my office the straight guys all groaned to hear a gay group was complaining about ~this~ ad. I think it's great -- the kind of ad that gays and straights can both laugh at. Do a controlled survey -- I guarantee you'll find the vast majority of LGBT's ~loved~ this ad! I've gone to Daimler-Chrysler's website to thank them for it.

Ken Vincent , Washington
I'm openly gay, I like the ad, I think it's funny, and I think you folks need to lighten up and get a sense of humor. You do us no favors by portraying us as persnickety social prudes who think we're still as oppressed as we were in the eighties or nineties.

Bob Kellerman , West Hollywood, CA
The woman's comments are as ridiculous and insulting as the ad.

Bobby , Miami, FL
Dodge is a macho, redneck brand. I know this because I worked for them in the past. Not only they won't allow anything gay, even implied, but I had to add a line about a man pleasing his woman on a radio commercial. I was against the idea, but my creative director demanded that from me. They're all about cowboys, and mechanics and construction workers. Nothing more than that, but even from them to turn a straight man into an effeminate gay man is going too far.

Rick , Watertown, NY
I think the ad is hilarious. He has been transformed into the opposite of his picture of himself. There are valid reasons for most stereotypes, and laughing at ourselves can be a very healthy thing.

John , Denver, CO
I wonder if our gay ads are offensive to heterosexuals? All in all, who cares? We live in America and there is the First Amendment, right? Being good people is what it's all about.

Bill Pawlikowski , Pittsburgh, PA
As a young gay man, I really don't find much offense in the commercial. As a matter of fact, I actually DRIVE a black Dodge Caliber. If the gay community takes offense to these adds then we are simply giving in to Republican corporate America. I love my Caliber, and don't feel that the ad should detract any one, gay or straight from considering the vehicle. The "macho" stance of the CUV I actually find rather appealing and detracts from the given stereotype. Something that should be embraced by homosexuals and straights alike.

Todd , Columbus, OH
I don't understand what the big deal is. It's a scantily clad female with a magic wand and wings. Or are we forgetting the very long line of Tinkerbell, wood nymphs, water pixies, and other fairy tale creatures? Before I ever read this (from another news agency and then got directed here), I never would have seen that in the commercial. I think it should be taken at face value rather than read into for possibly imagined derogatory towards gays.

John , Kansas City, MO
That fairy is hot! Who is she?

QB , Seattle, WA
I agree with the negative assessment. See my post: http://queerbeacon.typepad.com/queer_beacon/2006/03/is_the_new_ad_f.html

Bart , Chicago
It's funny. Get over being so damn sensitive about being gay. I am, and I think it's funny.

Jackson R. Howa , Tucson, AZ
While I do see your point that "fairy" could be offensive in this context, I didn't think that it was intended to be. Especially considering the fairy was a woman in this commerical.

Jintoku , New York, NY
My partner and I laughed out loud first time and every time we see this. I see this as pro-gay, as the guy who yells "fairy" gets to be the stereotype he fears.

Alexander Inglis , Toronto, Canada
I happen to rejoice and celebrate our gay "sissy", "fairy", "effeminate" brothers. I found the ad positive: everything the fairy touched turned to magic. As in life!

John , San Antonio, TX
I agree with the comments that Dodge knew exactly what it was doing. As a straight guy, the first thing I thought upon viewing the commercial was "Wow...they've made a fairy-proof car. Wonder who THAT ad was for?" My second thought was "there are gonna be some pissed off gay people out there." Sure enough. I think the commercial is so laughably homophobic that gay people should applaud it...I mean, it makes their car look like a giant compensation device for people who are insecure with their sexuality. "Look! This car comes with its own gay-dust resistant fairy-bashing tinted windows! How cool!"

Patric , Montreal, Canada
I thought it was a riot. I got a good laugh at this ad.
Who is to say that he was not just a butch gay guy before? He was not with a woman nor did I see a wedding band.

Nate , Orlando, FL
The term fairy in the commercial only refers to the actual fairy. She turned everything nicer, so the man and dog are only turned into nicer beings. Several straight men I work with dress like that every day. She turned the man into a preppy not a homosexual.

B , New York, NY
This 'taking offense' bit has been entirely played out. You are all stereotyping yourselves just to have something to complain about because the company happens to be Dodge and happens to be very wealthy.

Steve , Detroit
Gimme a break. We need to stop being opportunist whine-bags ... or dare I say "fairys?" The ad is hillarious and the guy in shorts could just as easily be interpretted as a "nerd" as he can be interpreted as gay. Seems to me the guy in "leather" could be gay too. As far as I'm concerned, in the greater perspective, it's a mainstream national ad and it includes a humorous interpretation of some of our own people, and I think that's great! There's nothing being communicated that's anymore harmful than the same things we say to ourselves on any given Saturday night in a gay bar. I find nothing offensive about the ad. In fact, I find it very funny. We don't get ourselves worked up when one of the guys on Queer-eye flames out ... I've yet to see us protest one of our own? So what's the difference here? Who can explain why it is that we take "pride" when we broadcast parades that comminicate far-farier images of ourselves on national television, cascading a misleading, generalized, stereotype, but then we, in turn, get our noses out of joint when someone else does a far less severe take on the same thing. That's ourselves being hypocrites in my opinion. Until we as gay people are ready to stop putting fairies out there ourselves, I don't see how we have a right to take offense when ad agency or anyone else does the same thing?

Mark , West Hollywood, CA
There is a subtext in the ad I haven't seen anyone mention of yet: If you engage in anti-gay behavior, either a) you ARE secretly a member of that group you try to vocally distance yourself from; and b) use anti-gay (or any other) slurs against someone based on your own perceived superiority based on class, gender, sexual orientation, etc., and you run the very real risk of getting knocked down a peg (at the very least). It's a fine line, admittedly, where acceptable use of such a language ends, and there will never be a consensus of opnion.

Mike , Flagstaff, AZ
I am a fairy, but I am packaged in a container which looks like the guy 'before'. The brute's tranformation seems liberating to me, and I laughed. At the same time, it's the spot's misogynistic and violent overtones which I find disturbing. Would I ever buy a Dodge compact car (again)? No: the spot is unsettling and their Neons were junk.

Jim , Toronto, Canada
Get a life, it's a good ad.

Chris , Hartford, CT
Little female fairies with wings and sparkles all around them were in existence long before gay men latched onto the word and claimed it for themselves. The world isn't constantly thinking about gay people, or about subtle, underhanded ways to offend. Sometimes, it's really about an actual fairy, instead of a gay fairy impersonator.

Randy , Fort Worth, TX
Yesterday we purchased our Marine Pearl Blue, loaded Caliber. We laughed at the commercial...and because we were in the market for a new auto, decided to test drive and fell in love with it. We are a gay couple and think the commercial is funny....not offensive.

Splink , Happy, MI
Cute fairy. Funny ad. Not homophobic.

Q , Palm Springs, CA
Just downright hateful. Disgusting. Sickening. How a company can get away with something like this today is beyond me.

Scott , Sidney, Iowas
I thought it was kind of cute. I am upset that now they show it without the "fairy" comment. She is a fairy, what else should we call her?

Brian , Frederick, MD
I'm gay, not a fairy, its a cute commercial, and I wasn't offended. There is no sexual orientation suggested either before or after.

John W , Minneapolis, MN
I was offended by this ad the first time I saw it, as was my partner.

The guy doesn't just laugh and point...he say's silly fairy...and then is reduced to "a silly fairy"

....not a "preppy". It's a direct response to his call out. I know it and Chrysler knows it. We were actually considering the 300. Not anymore.

What surprises me is I've seen two versions of this ad. One edited version where the guy just points and laughs and then the presto change-o...I thought..ok they addressed it and the ad didn't have the same blatant mean spirit.

Jim , Pasadena, CA
I really feel sad that we give up so much power and esteem when we allow things like this to go on unchallenged. Fairy is a derogatory term for a gay person and Dodge is using it to sell cars and make fun of us at the same time. This type of degradation is being sold to everyone as being OK. We are being de-sensitized to being minimized as people. We're just "silly little fairies." We'll never get equal rights with that attitude.

Tony , Belmar, NJ
I think some people may be a little bit oversensitive. Certainly before reading this review and even now after having read it, I just don't see the guy as seeming gay after the fairy's retaliation. She's just done to him what she did to everything else before being thwarted by the car. If anything, I was a little put off by the implication that the fairy somehow harmed this guy by turning him from someone apparently dumb and dirty to someone better dressed, and cleaner.

Doug , Sarasota, FL
I think it is important to remember fairies are not always fairies. Sometimes they are just fairies. I think it is more of a statment on the celtic feminine than the queer.

Fairy power!

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