King Kaufman's Sports Daily

Homophobic Snickers ad campaign pulled amid howling, but not unanimous, protests. Plus: Wrong about Peyton Manning? Us?



Salon Staff
February 6, 2007 10:00PM (UTC)

Afterthekiss.com is no more.

Masterfoods, the division of Mars Inc. that makes Snickers bars, has pulled the entire campaign surrounding the "Wrench" Snickers ad that played during the Super Bowl. The campaign brought protests that the TV spot and accompanying Web site were homophobic.

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The ad depicted two mechanics chomping on opposite ends of a Snickers bar, meeting in the middle in an accidental kiss, then overreacting. "Quick, do something manly," one yells. Then they both rip out a handful of their own chest hair.

The spot directed viewers to the Web site, which offered three alternative endings and video of Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts players reacting to the ad. All of the players said the ad was funny, but a few were clearly disgusted at the idea of two men kissing. The site invited viewers to vote on the four ads to determine which would be shown during the Daytona 500 later this month. The URL now redirects users to Snickers.com.

Masterfoods spokeswoman Bertille Glass said the campaign has been halted and the spot won't run during the Daytona 500. The company released a statement saying it hadn't intended to offend anyone.

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The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and the Matthew Shepard Foundation released a joint press release Monday condemning the campaign and asking for a meeting with Mars and the NFL "to address our concerns and give them an opportunity to raise public awareness about the destructive impact of these kinds of anti-gay images and comments," said GLAAD president Neil Giuliano in the release.

The release included this interesting tidbit about TBWA/Chiat/Day, the advertising agency that created the Snickers campaign: "In early January, TBWA/Chiat/Day New York asked GLAAD to review and provide analysis on a Snickers spot. GLAAD agreed. The next day, the agency abruptly withdrew its request without having shown GLAAD the ad."

Glass said she hadn't been aware of that charge.

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Judy Shepard, Matthew's mother, said in the same release that she was outraged at the campaign, which she said "encourages the same type of hate that led to the death of my son Matthew. It essentially gives 'permission' to our society to verbally or physically harass individuals who are gay, lesbian or bisexual."

The Human Rights Campaign, the largest gay rights group in the United States, called on Mars to pull the ads Monday, but the reaction wasn't unanimous in the gay community. Gay-themed message boards debated the offensiveness of the spots, with many people reporting that heavily gay crowds at Super Bowl watching parties found the Snickers spot hilarious and not homophobic.

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Cyd Zeigler Jr. of Outsports wrote a column arguing that gay activists had "overreacted" to what he called the Snickers campaign's "sophisticated message."

"The sophisticated message seemed to be that the overreaction of 'straight' men to homosexual contact is completely irrational," Zeigler wrote. "This ad is not remotely gay-bashing. The point of the reaction of the men was so ridiculous that it made the reaction of straight men to homosexual contact the butt of the joke, not the kiss itself."

Zeigler sent me an e-mail asking that I rethink my reaction to the commercial, arguing, "Just because the two guys don't react well to the kiss doesn't mean the message of the commercial is that everyone should react badly to it. On the contrary, the message is actually educated and really cool, if you watch and absorb the whole commercial."

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I did rethink my reaction, but I keep coming to the same conclusion. The ad was offensive, and I think Masterfoods did the right thing by pulling it. It's OK with me if Zeigler and many others weren't offended. In fact, I'd feel the same way about the Snickers campaign if it hadn't caused a ripple in the gay community.

I wasn't offended on behalf of anybody. I was just offended. It bothers me that two things I like, the NFL and Snickers bars, teamed up to send a message I found distasteful. That message seemed to pervade the Super Bowl broadcast. The message was that there's just something wrong and weird about being gay.

I like the understated way Molly Willow put it in a Super Bowl-ad roundup in the Columbus Dispatch: "I'm ready for homophobia not to be funny anymore."

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The commentariat is never wrong [PERMALINK]

All Super Bowl analyzed out? The best, pithiest analysis I read came, of course, from a baseball writer. Larry Mahnken, author of the blog Replacement Level Yankees Weblog, seized the occasion of Peyton Manning finally winning the big one to meditate on clutchness and therefore -- check the title of the blog -- Alex Rodriguez.

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We'll stick to what he has to say about Manning, which is that we've all been hearing for years that "Manning 'can't' win the big game, that he didn't have what it takes, etc., etc.," but that Manning was terrific in the second half of the AFC Championship Game win over the New England Patriots, and then won the big one Sunday against the Chicago Bears.

"Manning didn't suddenly become clutch sometime in the second quarter of the AFC Championship," Mahnken writes. "He didn't suddenly become capable of doing all these things that people said he couldn't do for years. He was capable of doing these things all along. He just didn't do them until 2006.

"What you'll hear now is how Manning has proven himself to be a big-game quarterback. What you won't hear ANYONE say is that they were wrong all along. Because they were."

Previous column: Colts beat Bears in Super Bowl

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