Coca-Cola earned a perfect 100 from the Human Rights Campaign in the US and just debuted a commercial in the UK featuring a gay wedding. But it cut the wedding scene for the commercial in Ireland and has chosen to sponsor the winter Olympics in Russia, which is coming under heavy fire for its new anti-gay law and indifference to homophobic violence.
In a red carpet interview last week at SXSW, James Franco suggested that he has been dropped from three advertising campaigns due to his involvement in two gay-oriented films he put out at Sundance, and not due to his image as the companies reported. He produced Kink and co-directed and starred in a forthcoming Travis Matthews film, Interior.Leather Bar. Franco suggested that this exemplifies the homophobia that still exists in American media. As many advertisers have already begun to notice, gays and lesbians will only continue to become an increasingly visible part of American society. While the exact reason for Franco having been dropped from these campaigns is unclear at this time, the depiction of raw gay sexuality as portrayed in these films was no doubt part of the conversation. Other explicit films depicting heterosexual sex rarely if ever raise an eyebrow among the public, and neither should these.
Super Bowl Carries Snickers and Revlon Gay Ads, Followed by Snickers Meltdown
by Michael Wilke
The Super Bowl is the biggest day in both football and advertising -- and 2007 continued an increasingly annual tradition of introducing gay-themed ads. But an elaborate same-sex kiss campaign from Mars Inc. for Snickers candy bar suffered an immediate meltdown after gay community opposition.
Meanwhile, Revlon Consumer Products Corp. aired an ad featuring pop star Sheryl Crow and her hair stylist, an effeminate man who gets upset when he's been replaced by Revlon Colorist hair color. At $2.6 million for :30, the one minute spot by Endeavor cost roughly $5 million just to air. It ranked second-to-last in USA Today's Ad Meter online poll.
In a post "Queer Eye" world, advertisers have gained comfort with including effeminate or openly gay men as best friends or stylists in commercials targeting women, including Unilever's Sunsilk campaign that uses the flamboyant voice of Mario Cantone, as well as L’Oreal with Kyan Douglas and Thom Filicia for Pier 1, both of "Queer Eye."
In the Snickers spot that aired during the first half hour of the game on CBS, two Neanderthal-like auto mechanics work on an engine next to each other, and one shoves a chocolate bar into his mouth. Jealous, the other simply starts chomping on the other end of the chocolate. Competitively, the two eat feverishly from each end until their lips meet and "accidentally" kiss, Lady and the Tramp style. Suddenly concerned, the two men decide they must do something "manly" to make up for the moment -- and each pull a fistful of their own chest hair out.
There were three alternative endings that visitors to the Snickers site were to vote on at afterthekiss.com. One, "Love Boat," tries to be accepting as a third mechanic shows up and asks, "Is there room for three on this love boat?" The other three showed negative responses, in one the two men violently beat each other up, and in another they swallow motor oil and windshield fluid to cleanse their mouths.
Ironically, online voters had the Super Bowl-aired version in last place, while the accepting "Love Boat" version was second only to the negative swallowing-motor-oil version. The winner was to be aired during the Daytona 500 on February 18.
The company web site also offered reactions by several NFL players from the game's Indianapolis Colts and Chicago Bears, who were mostly repulsed by the kiss. Michele Kessler, VP of marketing at Mars unit Masterfoods, was quoted in an advance press release as saying, "Their reaction was exactly what we anticipate on game night -- lots of laughs."
The primary target audience of the campaign was young men ages 18 to 24, and it was the first time back to the Super Bowl for Mars since 2001.
Gerry Graf, executive creative director at the ad agency that created the campaign, Omnicom Group's TBWA\Chiat\Day, said in the press release, "We wanted something that would get people talking during -- and after -- the game."
The agency and client succeeded in getting people talking but not in the way they had anticipated.
“That Snickers, Mars and the NFL would promote and endorse this kind of prejudice is simply inexcusable,” GLAAD President Neil Giuliano said in a press statement.
Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign stated, "This type of jeering from professional sports figures at the sight of two men kissing fuels the kind of anti-gay bullying that haunts countless gay and lesbian school children on playgrounds all across the country."
Mars, a privately held company based in McLean, Virg. also has a very low rating from HRC for its company policies, just 6 out of 100.
Within hours after a unanimous outcry among gay bloggers and major community organizations condemned the campaign as "anti-gay," Mars took down the page with ads and NFL player commentary.
"We know that humor is highly subjective and understand that some people may have found the ad offensive. Clearly that was not our intent," read a company statement after the page removal. "Consequently, we do not plan to continue to air the ad on television or on our Snickers website."
The ad was ranked ninth in the game by both USA Today visitors and IAG Research, but was widely panned by ad critics. Bob Garfield of Advertising Age called it one of the game's "biggest blunders" and Dan Wetzl of Yahoo Sports named it a "loser." However, Cyd Zeigler of Outsports.com dismissed much of the gay community's response as "overreacting."
Like many companies, Mars has a history of using gay themes in its commercials. A 2004 spot for M&M and Shrek also deals with a potential kiss between two of the "male" candies, but the other walks away saying, "That's not gonna happen."
USA Today reported a spokeswoman for Masterfoods, Alice Nathanson, said the company declines a specific apology, noting, "We've done what we can." But she added, "We always look at lessons learned. We'll be doing that with this."\n