Pilot Pen of America, Pen Envy


Eight days was all she wrote for this ad about "pen envy," when it was pulled by the company for being too sexually suggestive for some consumers.

Two men wearing suits sit next to each other on a commuter train. Looking down into the lap of the guy next to him, one (comedian Rob Corddry, of "The Daily Show" and "The Winner") says, "Wow, that's some instrument you've got there."

"Like it?" the other asks.

"Yeah," he says, swallowing hard.

"It's so...impressive?" the other offers, as if this is a familiar reaction. A woman sitting behind them is overhearing this conversation with increasing amazement.

The first one continues, "Yeah. It must give you great joy."

Without missing a beat, the other guy says, "You wanna hold it it?" Nervously, the man replies, "Could I?" Then the object of his affection -- a pen called Dr. Grip -- finally shows up and the man gasps as he holds it. The owner of the pen even seems to fall into a subtle ecstasy as the other man handles his... pen.

The train conductor shows up to take tickets and let's out an "Hooo-aaahhhh" as he looks down into the man's lap as well. If the overt sexual double-entendre wasn't enough, the closing shot uses a classic cinematic euphemism for sex, with the train entering a tunnel.

Looking to break out of previously straightforward campaigns, the ad for Pilot, the third-ranked pen brand, is part of a campaign that utilizes other mistakes in understanding, such as a woman with her baby talks to another woman about how she has them in several other colors and throws them away when they're used up.

"We wanted to be very disruptive in our thinking," Linda Kaplan, president of the ad agency that created the campaign, told The New York Times. "We didn't want to just come there with somebody sitting on a couch saying, 'Hey you should try these pens, they're really fun to write with.' "

But the ad was too much for some and the company pulled it out of rotation after just eight days.

"We received numerous complaints about the suggestive nature of the ad," Bob Silberman, marketing director for Pilot, told Southern Voice.

According to Silberman, the commercial was never intended to reflect anything sexual, much less portray gay men.

"It was supposed to be like two guys sitting around in a locker room atmosphere just chatting away," he said. "It really offended some people who thought it was sexually misleading. … We received hordes of email concerning the spot."

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User Comments
Tina Tawdre
Hilarious. I'm surprised they haven't brought it back to run with shows like SNL.

I think ads like this are stupid and inappropriate. They have big flashing lights on them that say, "we play on your repressed homosexual urges."

Jerry Hutton
I am sure they must have received pressure because my life partner only saw it once and described it to me. I never did see it on the air. The other commercial that was shown at the same time is still being shown. How sad this is because the commercial was so good. I hope that your organization is able to make a difference and show that we do notice gay commercials and remember the products that present positive gay images.

The ambiguity of sexual orientation is something to mention here. Both gay & straight men frequently comment about each others' body parts. I feel that this ad is an attempt to present sexual inuendos as a comical approach to sell the product.