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Company: Unilever
    View Company Scorecard / Contact Company
Brand: Iglo
Ad Title: Normal Man
Business Category: Packaged Foods
Media Outlets: Television
Country: Germany
Region: Europe
Agency: McCann
Year: 2001
Target: Mainstream
Ad Spotter: Paul Geitner
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Theme(s)

Same-Sex Couples/Families

Sissies

Problematic Language

Theme Breakdown

AdRespect Score: 
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The first campaign anywhere in the world built entirely around a gay couple in Germany comes out with a flamboyant flourish.

Although the happy, middle-class domestic couple are shown getting along well together -- making meals is a game for them instead of tedious, like for the rest of us -- Holger and Max are the picture of gay stereotypes, wearing a pink shirt or a frilly cooking apron, prancing around and speaking in lisp, effeminate voices. Three of the four installments convey a negative message about their masculinity.

While some argue that stereotypes are part of gay society, the most troubling part of this commercial is when Max comes in an announces that dinner is ready with a girlish voice. With a sigh, Holger says rather self-hatingly, "Max, please, just once can't you say it like a normal man?"

Then at the end, Holger gets slightly campy by exclaiming that the cheese is gorgonzola.

One German viewer reports that the English-dubbed version is a poor translation and that in the German version he says, "Das kann man auch normal sagen" which means "You can say this in a normal way, too, you know!" Still, a supporting print ad reads, "Not only for real men" which seems to support the English translation.

It is with mixed feelings that this spot lands in the Negative category. It is remarkable that an entire ad campaign is dedicated to the gay couple, with a supportive portrayal of a same-sex couple. But the humor could have been more sophisticated and aimed at issues other than stereotypes.

Yet the intent was to leverage the idea that gay men are taste makers.

Guenter Sendlmeier, general manager of McCann in Hamburg, told Euromarketing, "We all know that gay couples are long accepted in our society and they have become the substitute for good taste, particularly in the fashion and art world. They are known for their sense of good food. Even very conservative women agree."

Peter Stachowiak, a spokesman for Iglo, told Agence France Presse, "We're trying to sell a new generation of products, upmarket food, aimed at the housewife. We thought the image of the gourmet homosexual living in an elegant interior fitted the mood of the times."

A newspaper in Germany, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. reported of the ads: "In the beginning, the creators of the campaign were not quite certain
whether they had judged the degree of social acceptance correctly, or
whether they were asking too much of their audience. They were afraid that their own perception might be blurred, 'because there are many openly gay men in the media scene.'

The agency carried out a market survey to make sure. The results proved that housewives, pensioners, young people, working men and women unanimously agreed: Homosexual men are affectionate, helpful, well dressed, appreciative of good food and have good taste. Almost all of those questioned said that they know gay men personally.

Now, Volker Nickel, secretary of the German Advertising Federation, expects that other advertising agencies will follow suit and feature homosexual couples as well.

The paper also reported that Volker Beck, the Greens' parliamentary
spokesman on legal affairs and a board member of the Lesbian and Gay Association of Germany, wrote a note of thanks to ad agency McCann-Erickson. The gay community is glad about any commercials that show "gay normality," a spokeswoman of the organization said.

As it turns out, the actor who plays Holger also plays a straight father in a cough syrup commercial.

German gay market consultant and ad columnist Michael Stuber, who publishes Rosa Brille wrote this about the ad: "This probably proves the decline of Christian-occidental culture: Two men make a real couple on German TV and mark the end of all morale and order. They are supposed to make IGLO quality frozen food palatable to the whole nation. The right-wing parties should consider steps to legally stop the airing of the commercial. Especially as the two guys only promote foreign cuisine: Italian, Asian etc. Will we even have to watch Turkish advertising for Bavarian beer one day? I hope so. It‘s about time that TV commercials become as colorful as life -- and as appealing for everyone. "

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Tracey , Decatur, Illinois
Get a life people and a sense of humor! It is a hoot! There are many queens out there, and we love them!

Horst , New York City
I think it's unfair to label this campaign "anti-gay". On other spots they are shown smooching and their website portrays them like a married couple in love.

Kirk , New York City
I don't consider the spot negative. In fact, I thought it was kinda cute. Let's face it, I know guys who act like that, as I'm sure we all do. Everybody has their own groove, that's what makes life interesting.

Marku , Boston
What's the big deal? The gay community is diverse no matter where you are. Acceptance into mainstream has to be done slowly, and with humor. Relax people -- these two men exist cause you know we all know someone like them.

Kai , Cologne, Germany
Their voices seem to be much more feminine in the English than in the German version of the ad. I don't think at all that this ad belongs to the minus-category. First of all, it's positive that this is the first German ad showing a gay couple and their life at home. Of course, their behaviour seems a bit exagerated, but we all know people who act like Holger and Max at least in some moments of their lives -- don't we?

Oliver , Munich
Personally, I am a bit ambivalent about this couple, since they are living the classic husband/wife lifestyle -- but hey, it's a big campaign and its intentions are nice...

Max , Los Angeles
Talk about reinforcing stereotypes!! This ad is truly heinous. While I applaud the company's willingness to build a campaign (one which is apparently also intended to play on more "positive" stereotypes) I find it reprehensible that they chose to regress to the "husband/wife" portrayal. It's these sex role stereotypes that are at the core of so much GLBT prejudice and this is underscored by their "normal man" comment.

Silver , Munich, Germany
He doesn't say that! It was translated
incorrectly! In the German version he says "Das kann man auch normal sagen,"
which means "You can say this in a normal way, too, you know!" The dubbed
version makes the people sound a lot "gayer" and it suggests that a normal
man wouldn't talk like that, whereas in the German original it doesn't. It doesn't suggest that a normal (i.e. straight) man wouldn't act like that. I agree that the dubbed
version is a bit weird.

Brian , Portland, OR
I disagree with the rationale of the negative rating.

If the claim is that it is a "good" thing to portray queer people as trend-setters and that this is a "good" part of the ad, I'd offer as a counter argument that this also propagates a stereotype. It is no better than an ad that relies on the "goodness" of a stereotypically endowed black guy.

There is no anger or shame or violence in the '"normal" comment. In fact, it is quite easy to read it as a gentle and loving-teasing exchange that happens among long-term couples. "I love you sweetie, but do you always have to be 'on stage'?" The fact that the partner finds himself too giddy to restrain himself seems to me to be just more positive reinforcement for what is actually "normal."

In my opinion, any negative interpretation is actually pretty deliberately used to build a very positive counter-reaction by the end.

This ad is wonderfully positive and constructive, without needing to spell it out.

Daryl , Saskatoon, Canada
I find it neither offensive nor funny. I think it's just silly.

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