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Company: Unilever
    View Company Scorecard / Contact Company
Brand: Impulse
Ad Title: Groceries
Business Category: Fragrances
Media Outlets: Television
Country: United Kingdom
Region: Europe, Latin/South America
Agency: Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide
Year: 1998
Target: Mainstream
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Theme(s)

Age Diversity

Racial Diversity

Real GLBT Person

Same-Sex Affection

Theme Breakdown

AdRespect Score: 
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A woman walking down the street with her arms full of groceries gets bumped by two guys walking in the opposite direction and her groceries go flying.

One stops to help her pick them up and a seduction begins. They catch each others' gaze and -- in an amusing Biblical reference to lost innocence -- they both grab a rolling apple at the same moment. He then picks up a box of condoms and she smiles as a tune in the background sings, "The female of the species is more deadly than the male."

At that moment, the fellow is tapped on the shoulder by his buddy, who motions that they go. The woman stands up and begins looking around her as the two guys walk away. She sees two other guys leaning in close to each other, a British dandy (a cameo appearance by Quentin Crisp) and a tiny dog in a leather outfit. She then looks back at the two who bumped into her and they walk away with their arms around each other. (One viewer in Italy says a different version showed there, with the men holding hands.)

The one who helped looks back and smiles then shrugs his shoulders. She smacks herself on her forehead (Like the classic "Wish I had a V8" commercials in the US), realizing that she was in a gay neighborhood.

The tagline: "Men can't help acting on Impulse."

This commercial -- considered one of the first in England to overtly show a gay couple -- is a twist on the age-old perfume ad, where men spontaneously give flowers to a beautiful woman passing by.

A person who once saw this ad at a Commercial Closet presentation insisted that the man was bisexual, though the joke here is that even gay men are attracted -- if momentarily -- to women wearing the fragrance. This is summed up in the tagline.

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Stuart Carroll , Provincetown, Mass.
I would have given this a neutral vote for two reasons. When the camera cuts to the various male/male couples and Quentin, the soundtrack is saying "Shock, Shock, Horror, Horror" -- which could be interpreted as how the viewer is supposed to feel about the people being shown. Also, contained in the "gay" guy flirting with the woman because she's wearing this perfume is the implicit stereotype that "all it takes is the right woman" to cure homosexuality.

KZ , Seattle
I have to agree with Stuart and say this is a negative ad. The bisexual partner acted much more interested in the woman than the guy he was with. The gay one was rude about the accident, not helping, and wanting to rush off. Viewers are left with the impression people are recruited into being gay as the bi man is led away from the "Dorothy" like girl by his partner. The helpful half of the couple never showed any indication he was there by himself, but being led "down the road" by his partner.

Steven F. Baljkas , Winnipeg, Canada
I have to disagree with both KZ and Stuart; I think Mike is right in assessing the ad as positive. The line that Stuart identifies is internal to the song -- i.e. to the shock and horror of a misspent relationship (or attempt at one). The girl's reaction at the end is more understandable as a kinda "oh, now I get it"; she is clearly not reacting in horror. However, I too read the helpful guy as bi; given the widespread bi-phobia in the gay world (I still have friends who insist bi guys don't exist), I think this ad is quite interesting.

Cristiano , Milan, Italy
In Italy this ad, at the end of the commercial, showed the two guys hand by hand!

Chris , Nicosia, Cyprus
I saw this advert a while back in a feature on EuroNews which said that the advert caused a few complaints, but it was a bit different:
1. The guy who bends down to help is more boyish in the version I saw.
2. The girl is more model like and her hair isn't in braids but hanging straight down.
3. The two look up at each other as opposed to looking sideways at each other and..
4. The other guy doesn't tap but beckons the guy to come from a few meters away since it was only the boyish guy who bumped into her. This distracts the two as they both look up. The guy who stayed to help then runs to the guy who was waiting, gives him a kiss and puts his arm around his boyfriend, looking back as the girl just shakes her head, smiling, obviously humoured.
The version I saw has no other gay people around, although it is more clear that the guy is gay and not bisexual, as the attraction phase is not as prolonged as in this version.

Lee Ann , Mauritius
It is brilliant.

Aster , Hartford, CT
It kind of bothers me that anyone would be that offended by the idea that a perfume could make a gay person like someone of the opposite gender. There are more frightening things than spending a few minutes as a straight guy.

Ryan , Philadelphia, PA
What was the point? "Great, are they Metro, or Gay?" Who cares? Are we scaring them? "You can't hide, we're every where?"

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