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  • « Moving beyond the mushy in '08 | Main | GLAAD bitch slaps Shirley Q. »

    February 06, 2007

    No snickers for Snickers

    Posted by: Chris

    Snickerskiss Gay rights groups are up in arms about an ad for Snickers that aired during the Super Bowl on Sunday, and even more so about three alternative endings for the spot made available on the Mars web site. 

    All four versions of the ad feature two middle-aged mechanics working closely under the hood of a car.  One unwraps a Snickers bar and begins eating it while the other gazes longingly — at the Snickers. 
    The second mechanic begins eating the other end of the candy bar, leading to the inevitable, "Lady & The Tramp" kiss in the middle.  The two men jump back, shocked that they've just kissed, then come the four different endings:

    1. Chest Hair: In this ending, which actually aired in the Super Bowl, one of the mechanics says, "Uh, I think we just kissed."  The other says, "Quick, do something manly," to which the other response by ripping open his shirt and ripping out (with a shriek) a big wad of chest hair.  The first responds in kind amid screams.
    2. Monkey Wrench:  In response to "Quick, do something manly," the first mechanic grabs a monkey wrench and clobbers the other over the head.  The second mechanic throws the first one under the hood and slams it down.  The violence is clearly intended to be comic.  In the trailing seconds, the mechanic now slammed under the hood says, "OK, that's good."
    3. Motoroil Motor Oil: In response to "Quick, do something manly," one mechanic grabs some motor oil and begins gulping it; the other does the same with windshield washer fluid.  Both men scream (in manly fashion) as they do it.
    4. Love Boat: In this version, both men jump back from the kiss but before either can say anything, a third, long-haired and older mechanic walks up, tosses his hair and says, "Is there room for three in this love boat?"

    Mushinmuhammad2 In addition to encouraging visitors to the web site to vote on the four different endings, Mars posted video reactions from players from the two Super Bowl teams as they watched the commercials.  The response from the two Indianpolis Colts — linebacker Cato June and wide receiver Marvin Harrison — were low key and non-descript. 

    But the three Chicago Bears showed a good deal more enthusiasm. Mushin Muhammad, a wide receiver for Chicago, had an exaggerated facial reaction to the kiss, while tight end Desmond Clark laughed in a "no they didn't" style.  Quarterback Rex Grossman covered his face with his hands.  Clark, in particular, seemed shocked the two male actors actually had to kiss to make the commercial.  When told it took 15 takes, he laughed, "I hope they got paid a lot of money!"

    The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation "strongly condemned" the ads in a press release issued yesterday, calling on Mars to pull the "Wrench" ad and what the gay groups calls the "offensive" player reactions from its web site. 

    Judy Shepard goes so far as to claim in the GLAAD statement that the Snickers campaign "encourages the same type of hate that lead [sic] to the death of my son Matthew. It essentially gives 'permission' to our society to verbally and physically harass individuals who are gay, lesbian or bisexual." Shepard reserves particular "dismay" for the players, who she said are "perpetuating such discrimination and prejudice."

    Chesthair The Human Rights Campaign also condemned the ads, calling on Mars to pull the "Chest Hair" version that aired during the big game.  HRC's Joe Solmonese says in the release that Mars "should know better.  If they have any questions about why the ad isn't funny, we can help put them in touch with any number of GLBT Americans who have suffered hate crimes."

    Well I, for one, am a gay American — how, exactly, can one person be G, L, B and T anyway? — who has suffered a hate crime, and I am more disturbed by the gross overreaction of these overly earnest gay rights groups. 

    The version of the Snickers ad that aired during the game was funny, if not exactly guffaw-inducing.  Funny, as in funny ha-ha.  Remember that, activists?  This isn't Isaiah Washington cursing a gay colleage or Michael Richards unleashing a torrent of angry "N-words."

    This was a silly ad for a candy bar in which two unattractive, middle-aged mechanics accidentally kiss and then have a comic overreaction.  Do we really believe impressionable youngsters will learn life lessons from these two? They are the butt of the joke, after all, not gay people.

    Let's not forget, too, that this same-sex kiss didn't just run in prime time, but on Sunday afternoon in the most-watched television event of the year.  Long after the short ad spot is forgotten, a taboo has been broken, the "shock value" of a gay kiss has been lessened, and that's ultimately of more cultural influence than the mechanics' macho morality.

    Monkeywrench The only version of the ad that troubled me was "Monkey Wrench," since it did show the two men whacking each other in the head to prove they were still "manly."  But the "violence" was of the slapstick, comic-book variety, about as real as that inflicted on Wile E. Coyote in his pursuit of the Roadrunner. And let's not forget, each clobbering was invited by its recipient, as we're reminded at the end, when one mutters humorously, "OK, that's good."

    Viewers are about as likely to respond the same in real-life situations as they are to use a real rock to bash in their opponent's head the next time they play "rock-paper-scisscors," as portrayed in a hilarious Bud Light ad.

    Desmondclark An even bigger head-scratcher was the GLAAD/HRC condemnation of the NFL players' reactions.  These poor sobs were videotaped as they saw the commercial for the first time and, truth be told, I had the same facial reaction as Mushin Muhammad when I saw these two unattractive guys lock lips. Does that make me a look-ist?  Should I sign up for counseling along with Isaiah Washington? 

    GLAAD accuses two of the players of "overt expressions of prejudice"  — Clark presumably for believing the two actors ought to be paid handsomely, and June for explaining how the two guys reacted to kissing, "Nah this ain't right."  (Hello, he was explaining what was in the minds of the two men; not his own personal morality.)

    Loveboat C'mon, GLAAD.  Are we this hard up for "overt expressions of prejudice"?  I understood, in the Isaiah Washington incident, how his celebrity contributed to pushing "the F-word" off the cultural lexicon.  But all this type of hypersensitive overreaction does is push gay lives back into taboo territory, too controversial to touch.

    Like it or not, one price of coming out of the closet is that we are fair game for cultural jibes as much as anyone else.  We gain nothing by proving we are too sensitive to take a joke.

    Snickersvote_1 Unfortunately, lost in the dust of outraged press releases is the "Love Boat" version of the Snickers ad that, by any interpretation, was funny and not homophobic. The Mars web site promised that the version that got the most votes would air during the Daytona 500, and the "Love Boat" version was running second, behind "Motor Oil," after I voted.

    But in response to the gay groups' press releases, Mars has how pulled all four versions and the players' reactions from its web site.  No doubt the controversy has scared the company away from using any version, including "Love Boat," during the Daytona 500 or anywhere else.  Is that really a victory?

    Decide for yourself.  You can view all four versions of the ad and the player reactions by following the jump:

    Here's the "Chest Hair" version, courtesy of YouTube.

    Here's the "Motor Oil" version:

    Here's "Monkey Wrench":

    And, finally, here's "Love Boat":

    Here's the reaction from the Bears players, taken from the Mars web site:

    And here are the Indianapolis Colts:

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    Comments

    1. Andoni on Feb 6, 2007 3:22:14 PM:

      I'm with you. I liked the ad and applaud Mars for having the guts to show a same sex male kiss in the hugest of prime times.

      My take:
      1. The kiss served to de-sensitize America, in an "allergy shot" kind of way. It was sort of "America get used to this, this is mainsteam now." It breaks an important barrier because it shows that guys can kiss in front of the "manliest" sports audience.

      2. It makes fun of the guys' own reaction to their kiss and implies that their type of reaction is absurd, totally ridiculous. It also implies that this is the WRONG WAY to react.

      3. Comical stunts like this mark a real turning point in controversial subjects and are a sign of true progress. It is like the comical anti-war movie MASH was a turning point in how the public looked at war and in particular, the polarizing Vietnam War. More people come to understand the other side of an issue if it is made fun of. Also think Stephen Colbert.

      I think this ad (the one that aired) helped much more than it hurt.

    1. Joseph Kowalski on Feb 6, 2007 10:35:07 PM:

      There are certain battles to be fought in this gay rights struggle, but this clearly isn't one of them. I thought all 4 of these ads were funny. Perhaps, the wrench ad did go a little over the line with the violence but nothing that warranted the reaction from these gay rights groups.

      If we are to be taken seriously, we have to choose our battles wisely and we also have to lighten up and have a sense of humor.

      I think the Mars Company made the right decision in pulling these ads right away because it ended this unnecessary controversy before it became a huge media battle. I say it was the right move because the less this is seen, the less foolish our gay rights groups will appear

    1. Andoni on Feb 7, 2007 10:20:36 AM:

      Actually, I now have the evidence that this ad helped us more than hurt our cause. My partner is taking advertising courses and his assignment was to watch the Super Bowl ads and comment.

      A good advertisement uses the theory of classical conditioning. First the advertiser finds a stimulus that elicits a pleasant emotional response all by itself in its target audience. This could be a good looking model, a great song, the scene of a good time on the beach, etc. Then this unconditioned stimulus which elicits good feelings is linked with the product in the form of an ad. The ad is played over and over again (think Pavlov). After a while, if the ad is successful, classical conditioning occurs, and whenever the viewer sees the product alone, he will get a good emotional feeling without seeing the model, hearing the music or seeing the party scene at the beach, etc. Don’t laugh, test after test demonstrates that this works and works very well!

      So the question for the Snickers ad is, what part of the ad was supposed to elicit good feelings in its target audience and who was the target audience supposed to be?

      Was “the kiss” supposed to elicit a positive emotional response? Possibly in women watching the game and possibly in gays watching the game, but I really don’t know. Also, I don’t think the typical straight male would get a positive emotional response from the kiss. So, I’m at a loss as to what they were thinking and who the target audience was. The only pleasant emotional response from the ad was laughing at the end (for those who laughed).


      There was one huge unintended consequence (or did the ad agency have a gay staffer and it was intended) that I see in this ad. With classical conditioning this ad linked a powerful emotional stimulus (laughter) to the chocolate bar. However, people laughed and had a strong emotional response at the ad making fun of how ridiculous it was for the guys to react the way they did after a “gay kiss.” So inadvertently they also linked a positive emotional response to condemnation of the bad behavior someone exhibits when they see something gay or are perceived to be gay. This attitude conditioning is/was priceless…..or well maybe $2.5 million for 30 seconds.

      The fact is that emotional responses are much more powerful forces in controlling human behavior than an intellectual argument. Examples: Talk with a deeply religious person to see the differenc between an emotional response to one based on facts .... or witness the Astronaut who drove from Houston to Orlando to confront another woman.

      None of our national organizations would ever pay this type of money to advance our cause. In fact it appears that no one even had the expertise to see how this ad really worked to our advantage using the strong emotional route to change people's thinking/behavior on our issues. (As an aside, we as a community are just learning that the best way to get action in our direction is to "tell our stories." The reason this method is so successful is that it evokes emotions in people and that's the way that a good bit of America "thinks" -- through emotions. That's what this ad really had going for it.... and GLAAD and HRC couldn't see that.)

      So HRC, GLAAD, would you like to retract your statements and apologize to Mars? This ad (excluding the one with the wrench) was great free publicity and public conditioning for our cause and helped move the public more in one day than a year’s worth of your ads. You really blew it on this one.

    1. Alan down in Florida on Feb 7, 2007 12:05:20 PM:

      You all should get out of your ivory gay towers and go over to the Mars website and read some of the heterosexual vitriol at Mars for daring 1) to show men kissing, regardless of it being accidental and for comic effect and 2) for showing it when children were watching with their daddies who then might have to explain it to them.

      Snickers is the best selling candy bar in America. There is no reason they needed to sink this low designing a commercial. Tell me how this commercial promotes the brand in a positive way. Mars has alienated both the straight and gay communities with this one. For the first time ever a Snickers bar left a bad taste in my mouth.

    1. KJ on Feb 7, 2007 1:39:55 PM:

      When we overreact to things of little consequence, we won't be heard regarding things that matter.

    1. Dan on Feb 7, 2007 2:08:38 PM:

      KJ,

      we are not being heard on the things that matter. We need to start educating people about what is not appropriate and what iss in fact discriminatory and hurtful.

      I am not saying that this commercial is it--I really haven't looked at it. But I am tired of hearing we should only make waves for the "big issues." Obviously that is not working. We need to take a page out of the playbooks of other civil rights movements and be vocal and not ashamed of saying how we feel about how we are portrayed or attacked.

      Thanks.

    1. jimbo on Feb 7, 2007 4:53:47 PM:

      The real tragedy of the ad was the loss of someone's chest hair. Under any circumstance, such loss is painful and sad.

    1. North Dallas Thirty on Feb 7, 2007 5:38:17 PM:

      "We need to take a page out of the playbooks of other civil rights movements and be vocal and not ashamed of saying how we feel about how we are portrayed or attacked."

      Yes, because we all know how seriously people take individuals like Jesse Jackson or Louis Farrakhan.

    1. KJ on Feb 7, 2007 9:15:51 PM:

      First, let me state that I think the commercial was a bad idea. I don't think that two, not very well kept men locking lips over a candy bar sells the candy to any particular demographic. However, guess which Super Bowl commercial has gotten all the attention? I don't know enough about marketing to know whether or not that translates into units sold.

      Regardless, Dan, "we" were not portrayed The characters were supposedly heterosexual men who are apparently not very secure regarding their own sexuality. If anyone should feel offended, it seems like it should be heterosexual car guys.

      Now, if the viewer was supposed to be grossed out by two beautiful gay men kissing, then I'd have a problem.

      And therein lies the real tragedy, Jimbo. It we're going to see men locking lips on commercial TV, let's make it worth our while.

    1. Carl on Feb 7, 2007 10:25:53 PM:

      I'm baffled that anyone would find the Love Boat ad funny. A bad stereotype (flouncing long hair) says he wants to be in a love boat. Hilarious.

      The actual comments that the football players made were far more than just weird facial expressions on their part. Unless you would talk about how disgusting a same-sex kiss was and how sorry you felt for the actors, then I doubt you would have had the same reaction.

      I think that many of you who are fortunate enough to live in very supportive places wildly overestimate the point and the reaction of this commercial. It basically reduces gays to being a joke, and reinforces that a kiss between men is weird and wrong. The ad that aired on TV wasn't that awful, but the other ads, and the football player reaction, was pretty bad. They were making fun of the idea of homosexuality, to try to appeal to frat boys. I watched the ad when it came on during the Super Bowl and the reaction of straight guys around me was not laughter as much as "Brokeback" comments, words like "fa**ot", and sneering about "the gay agenda".

      Since Judy Shepard had to see the garbage her son put up with day after day due to his being gay and living in some areas that weren't exactly gay-friendly, I trust her judgment in opposing this ad. You can carry on all you want about the gay left, since many websites seem to exist solely to complain about them, but Judy is not just the gay left.

      And yes, I think it IS a victory to not have these foolish and pointless ads airing. We can find juvenile frat house humor about how sick gays are anywhere.

    1. EssEm on Feb 8, 2007 12:22:10 PM:

      Here's my take on it and anyone who wants to be offended, have at it and knock yourself out: my gay brothers found it hilarious, my gay sisters got offended.

    1. keith.d on Feb 8, 2007 2:46:07 PM:

      HRC did nothing when the Democrats announced the nomination of anti-gay marriage, pro-federal marriage amendment supporter Harold Ford Jr. as Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) chairman.

      And not a word when his nomination was secured.

      No doubt Democrats are glad Harold Ford Jr. wasn't a candy bar - because HRC would have been be all over that.

    1. Scott Batson on Feb 10, 2007 3:39:01 AM:

      I take issue with the comments that we should take on the small issues as well as the big ones. Over the last several years America has tuned out many groups racial and issue driven for pouncing on every issue no matter the size of offense. If we want to be heard we need to save the collective screams for things that are big and important.
      Those that want to infer a "homosexual" message into a "heterosexual" commercial remind me of my friends that break up with their various boyfriends every couple of months. Always reading things into the situation that are not really there. They just love the drama.

    1. mrsizer on Mar 3, 2007 4:34:59 PM:

      My gay self thought the ad was hysterical. My polling sample (I was watching the game in a gay bar) also thought it was great.

      The Mars plan was probably something along the lines of "Snickers is so good you won't even notice something icky". Not the best message, but as noted above, merely showing it could have a desensitizing effect. Also as noted above, this is trivia.

      I'm sure those people who are interested in Ms. Speer's shaved head and Ms. Smith's dead body really, really care about this commericial, too. Well, some of us have real lives and don't care what's in commercials. If you think commercials in any way reflect reality, you need help, and quickly. Before you get it, I'd be happy to sell you some trained dancing penguins I picked up at the North Pole.

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