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"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32
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Author:  Mike Bates
Bio: Mike Bates
Date:  February 8, 2007
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For Some, Super Bowl Ad Was Nothing to Snicker About

Commercials are a major reason to watch the Super Bowl for many viewers. Advertisers pay up to $2.6 million for 30 precious seconds and seek the biggest bang for their buck. Having their ads noticed is what it’s all about.

Commercials are a major reason to watch the Super Bowl for many viewers. Advertisers pay up to $2.6 million for 30 precious seconds and seek the biggest bang for their buck. Having their ads noticed is what it’s all about.

USA Today arranged focus groups Sunday to measure the commercials’ popularity. Beer ads, naturally, ranked very high. Another commercial making the top ten this year was the one for Snickers.

Aired in the first quarter, before Rex Grossman had a chance to really show his stuff, the candy bar ad reminded me of a scene in Walt Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp.” The canine couple is enjoying a spaghetti dinner at Tony’s. Leisurely munching on the same string of pasta leads to a charmingly innocent poochie kiss.

The Snickers’ commercial had two mechanics – neither as attractive as either Lady or the Tramp - working closely together under a car hood. One pops a Snickers bar into his mouth. Then the weirdness begins. The second guy starts munching on the other end. Their lips accidentally meet. Shocked at what’s happened, they decide they need to do something “manly” and commence ripping hair from their chests.

I didn’t find the commercial amusing or offensive, just dumb. I remembered a billboard I saw a few months ago. On it was what appeared to be a picture of a Snickers bar. Rather than the word “Snickers” though, it had “Hungerectomy” shown in the familiar typeface.

At the time I thought that if I were a Snickers executive, I’d look for a better ad agency, one that didn’t associate my product with unpleasant medical procedures. Perhaps the Super Bowl commercial came from the same fertile mind as the billboard.

The unfunny ad wasn’t innocuous, at least to some people. A writer on Slate.com concluded, “Apparently, knee-jerk homophobia is still grounds for comedy.” At Salon.com the complaint was that this year’s Super Bowl broadcast was painfully homophobic: “Snickers wins anti-gay title, but not by much.”

Other observers saw the same commercial and decided it was making a different point. On the Internet newspaper “The American Daily,” a short article titled “Snickers with the Help of CBS Embraces the Gay Agenda!” (Why do pieces like that so often have an exclamation point?) was posted.

Snickers added fuel to the fire by posting the commercial on its website. It gets worse. The web site included alternate endings; one had the two guys beating up each other. It gets worse. The website also had clips of Colt and Bear players contemptuously watching the two men kiss.

In 21st Century America, you must be extremely careful not to offend almost anyone. That’s because the professional scolds will jump on you faster than you can say I didn’t mean to be insensitive and I’m checking into therapy right now.

The Human Rights Campaign, which bills itself as the largest organization working to achieve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality, issued a press release Monday calling on Snickers to terminate its latest ad campaign. Particularly repugnant to the HRC was the alternate ending featuring violence. According to the group’s president:

“The makers of Snickers and its parent company at 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.”

He’s also insulted by the pro football players’ reaction to the two guys smooching: “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. Eighty-four percent of GLBT students report being verbally harassed at school, and this type of ad only reinforces that.”

Snickers took the objectionable clips off its website the same day. Still, the company got exactly what it had paid for: plenty of attention for its product. It’s said there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

I hope Snickers didn’t fold just because of the Human Rights Campaign. It no more speaks for all gays than Jesse Jackson does for all blacks. Or the National Organization for Women for all women. Or Rosie O’Donnell for all lunatics. Or Newt Gingrich for all us fat, old white guys.

Tuesday’s New York Times reported on the incident that it termed “a cautionary tale.” A spokeswoman for Snickers said that although feedback about the ad from its target consumers of 18-to-24-year-old males had been good, it wasn’t the company’s intent to offend anyone. So the commercial has been withdrawn. No mention was made of who might have to go into therapy as absolution.

Now if only Snickers would stop using those stupid “Hungerectomy” billboards. That would be satisfying.

Mike Bates

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Notes:  This appeared in the February 8, 2007 Reporter Newspapers.

Biography - Mike Bates

Mike Bates wrote a weekly column of opinion - or nonsense, depending on your viewpoint - for over 20 years. Additionally, his articles have appeared in the Congressional Record, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Mensa Journal. He has been a guest on Milt Rosenberg's program on WGN Radio Chicago, the Bruce Elliott show on Baltimore's WBAL, the Jim Sumpter show on the USA Radio Network and the New Media Journal's Blog Radio. As a lad, Mike distributed Goldwater campaign literature and since then has steadily moved further to the Right. He is the author of "Right Angles and Other Obstinate Truths." In 2007, he won an Illinois Press Association award for Original Column


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