JDI IN THE NEWS - 2002

Alex Coolman, Prison-themed 7UP Commercial Draws Fire, City News Service, May 24, 2002.

A 7UP commercial that drew protests from the L.A.-based group Stop Prisoner Rape and other organizations for making light of prison sexual abuse will be taken off the air, a 7UP spokeswoman said today.

Dr. Pepper/Seven Up, Inc. has notified all networks to pull the commercial, called "Captive Audience," as soon as possible, according to Philippa Dworkin, the vice president of corporate communications for the company.

"We think that we make pretty good commercials, but after speaking with Stop Prisoner Rape and seeing their viewpoint, we understood where they were coming from," Dworkin said. She said the company had already taken steps to stop airing the commercial, but because of the Memorial Day weekend holiday, it may still be televised on a limited basis through Monday.

SPR, a nonprofit human rights organization, and nearly 100 other groups called in late April for "Captive Audience" to be taken off the air.

The commercial, created by Young & Rubicam, depicts a 7UP spokesman handing out cans of soda to prisoners. The spokesman drops a can and refuses to bend down to pick it up, a gag that SPR said alluded to the fear of being raped in prison.

Later in the ad, a prisoner puts his arm around the spokesman and refuses to take his arm away as a cell door slams shut.

Lara Stemple, the executive director of SPR, said the ad "was perpetuating the kind of callousness that allows sexual abuse to continue in so many prisons virtually unchecked."

"We're very glad to hear that 7UP has decided to stop sending out the message that it's okay to laugh about rape when it involves people in prison. No corporation would make jokes about rape outside of the prison context," Stemple said.

Dworkin said that "Captive Audience," which aired during youth-oriented programming on MTV, UPN, Fox and The WB network, had been tested before it was aired, but focus groups hadn't had the same reactions that the commercial provoked among activist groups.

"We never got that message back, so I think now we've got to stand back and view it from a lot of different angles and maybe (have) more heavy testing," she said.

SPR's protest of the commercial sparked coverage in publications such as The Washington Post and Mother Jones.

Though 7UP initially defended the ad, the company modified that response.

"We listen," Dworkin said, adding that prison rape has a "terrible impact on society."

Representatives from Young & Rubicam could not be immediately reached for comment.