Geico, an insurance company, has an advertising campaign that is not only memorable but tells an important message. The tag line is “Geico.com. So easy even a caveman can do it”.Several commercials follow the efforts of cavemen to educate and enlighten the ad executives as to the offensive nature of the ads. The execs refuse to see it as offensive, become condescending, and make apologies that are clearly of the “go away now” variety.
The latest of these commercials reached me on a visceral level. In it we see a caveman carrying his carry-on luggage through an airport. He passes an ad, walks back, stares for a moment, shakes his head, and walks on. Without anything being said you sense the frustration he feels at the futility of his efforts. He’s met with those responsible and done everything he can do but yet they refuse to recognize his humanity.
Which brings me to another commercial, the Snickers ad that ran on the Super Bowl broadcast. In this, two auto mechanics accidentally kiss while eating either end of a Snickers bar. They respond in horror and rip out chest hair to prove that they are “manly”. To make an unfunny commercial even more annoying, you can log onto Snickers’ website to see Super Bowl players expressing their disgust at the idea of two men kissing. You can even choose an alternate ending of some effeminate man flipping his hair and trying to seduce the two.
Is there really truly any ad executive anywhere that wouldn’t immediately know that a campaign predicated on the idea that two men kissing is disgusting is at its base homophobic? Are we supposed to believe that this just “fell through the cracks”?
So what do I do?
Well, I could write emails and threaten not to eat Snickers. I could entertain a big debate over whether this was offensive. I could just sit and be angry.
But I already know the outcome. Just like Chrysler’s “silly little fairy” ad, some exec will say that they didn’t know anyone would be upset. And gay people will comment here and elsewhere that the Snickers ad “is hysterical” and “you’re too sensitive”. Whether or not the ad continues to run, yet again Madison Ave. will have reinforced the notion that two men kissing is funny and horrifying.
Like the caveman, I am fully aware that those responsible for making this ad made a conscious choice to belittle gay men for the purpose of appealing to those whom they see as potential customers. They aren’t unaware or uneducated. They probably aren’t even personally hateful. They just don’t care. If it gets people talking and sells a candy-bar, they’re happy. And if it dismisses the humanity of gay people, that’s of no regard.
So I find myself shaking my head and walking on.