In the last post, I talked about some dos and don’ts of LGBT-marketing. To make these points more identifiable, I want to show you some examples of past LGBT ad campaigns that have failed hard. Stay tuned for a post about the winners up soon!
Snickers is known for its confrontational campaigns. In this 2007 Super Bowl spot, two mechanics munch on opposite ends of the same Snickers bar – Lady and the Tramp style – and end up kissing each other when they meet. When they realize they’ve done something “gay”, they decide that now they’ll have to do something “straight”, and quick, so they jug down motor oil and one of the guys slams a car hood onto the other’s head. Remember when I told you one of the don’ts was “Don’t make ‘gay’ the punchline”? Well, that is exactly what I meant. This ad is extremely derogatory and offensive, and, as you can imagine, LGBT activists were not laughing either.
2. Snickers (again)
Snickers. Again! This time, their UK team thought it was appropriate to harass a speed walker for being a “disgrace to the man race”. After complaints by LGBT advocates in the US, they had to pull the ad, quite unsurprisingly. Although the speed walker in the video is not “officially” gay, the tone of the video and his stereotypical behavior suggest it (read my previous blog post on the importance of avoiding stereotypes and making “gay” the punchline). The Human Rights Campaign HRC criticized the commercial for perpetuating “the notion that the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community is a group of second class citizens and that violence against GLBT people is not only acceptable but humorous” (The Guardian).
Ok, this one deserves a very loud “Heck no!” This 7-Up commercial is offensive on so many levels it’s difficult to keep up. In a clumsy attempt to be funny, the ad ridicules prison rape. The spot features a comedian in jail pitching the soft drink to prison inmates. As he walks along a row of cells, he accidentally drops a can of 7-Up and declares, “I’m not picking that up.” The ad doubles down towards the end showing the protagonist inside a cell, with the arm of a tattooed inmate draped around him. “When you drink 7-Up, everyone is your friend,” he proclaims, smiling. As the inmate tightens his grip around him he declares, “Okay, that’s enough being friends.” Prison rape. Funny.
Arguably not even close to as bad as the previous ads, this next contender on my no-no list is from 2017. The Dutch airline KLM probably had their heart in the right place when they posted this photo, but if you look at the picture closely… Well, you won’t be surprised the post backfired. The photo shows three different ways a rainbow-colored (nice touch) airplane seat belt can be buckled: Buckle to buckle, tongue to tongue and tongue to buckle (yes, I had to look these terms up). The caption reads “It doesn’t matter who you click with. Happy #PrideAmsterdam.” Sadly though, in real life, when you’re actually sitting on that airplane seat, it kind of does matter “who you click with” and how. On your next flight, I dare you to fasten your seat belt with two tongues or two buckles. You will not succeed and likely somebody in the flight crew will yell at you. Why? Because there’s only one way to buckle a seat belt. Tongue to buckle. That is how this essential piece of safety technology is designed, and that’s okay. It’s just a very, very, very poor analogy to sexual identity. People were offended because, well, only the “heterosexual” way works. The other options, presumably the lesbian way, and the gay way to “click”, do not work. They do not click. You will die when your plane hits turbulence. Of course, some more conservative Twitter users remarked that that is actually the perfect metaphor for life, as heterosexuality is the only “natural” way to go. This, obviously, was not KLM’s intent, so they took the post down after a couple hours. What baffles me though, is that nobody in KLM’s marketing team saw the essential flaw in this idea. I mean, come on! See the post, along with some Twitter reactions below.
Do you want to avoid having your ad end up on the “nope” list? Read my post on the Dos and Don’ts of LGBT-Marketing!
Stay tuned for the next post on the best practices of LGBT-marketing.
In the meantime, please share my blog post with your peers!
Do you want to know more about LGBT-Marketing? Read my other posts, too!
🌈 4 Reasons Why Your Business Needs LGBT-Marketing
🌈 The Dos and Don’ts of LGBT-Marketing
🌈 LGBT-Marketing: Best Practices
🌈 How to Deal With Anti-LGBT Backlash
🌈 Rainbow-Washing: Explained
Don’t Let That Rainbow Logo Fool You: These 9 Corporations Donated Millions To Anti-Gay Politicians
Super interesting! I wouldn’t have picked up on some of these things at first glance, but when you explain them it completely changes how I looks at the ads. Great post!
Thank you so much, Kristy!
Hey Olivier! Brilliant post. This is such an important topic, I don’t really get how such big companies don’t realize those fails…I mean, at least someone in the company should’ve noticed that something was wrong! Maybe someone did but they were afraid to speak up? Who knows!
Keep going, I really like your posts.
Hi Veronica, thank you so much for your comment! I 100% agree, I can’t believe nobody spoke up!! It seems crazy to me, but it also shows corporate culture – as you said, maybe people were afraid to speak up! It’s all about creating a corporate culture that at least allows all employees to have a voice. If corporations fail at that, it’s no wonder they fail at communication, too.
Hi Oliver, I like how the angle was from “worst” practices, that caught my attention. It shows so much room of improvements for the advertising company because one can only learn from their mistakes to do better. It also takes courage to write about the things that most people do not dare to point out.
Hey Mei Qi, thank you so much for your comment! Exactly, I felt it was important to show the LGBT perspective for some of these bad ads. Humor can be very hurtful to the people the joke is on. Messages of togetherness are always the better way to go.
I feel like the Snickers commercials go even further than being super offensive to the LGBT community – they reflect (old-fashioned) underlying assumptions about “manliness” and celebrate macho culture, which in my opinion leads to discrimination – in many areas – in the fist place. For me there are issues with these commercials on so many levels.
Absolutely!! I have no idea how a group of people can sit in a room and green-light something as appalling as this.
Interesting, but people (incl. you) should REALLY get over themselves to find the KLM ad offensive. Clumsy? Sure. Nasty? No! Just a fun Pride ad that was not completely thought through.
Hi Alfred! I absolutely agree with you. I did state their heart was in the right place, and their corporate actions in the past have shown that. I do still believe a diverse team of people deciding on that social media post would have been able to tell that it was definitely a mistake to proceed. The offensive part about this whole thing were anti-LGBT people actually liking the post and seeing it as a sign for what’s “right” in their minds.