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."