Matthew Kauffman, Lock Up 7UP Ad, And Toss The Key, The Hartford Courant, May 29, 2002.

The soft drink company originally defended the commercial with the explanation that although being sexually violated in a correctional institution may not be conceptually humorous, this particular ad proved a real gut-buster in focus groups.

A 7UP spokesman was also quoted as suggesting that the whole brouhaha was some sort of spotlight-grabbing publicity stunt by Stop Prison Rape.

After nearly a month, however, the drugs apparently wore off and 7UP announced last week that the ad would be phased out quickly, although it was still available online Tuesday at http://www.7up.com/info/commercials.cfm.

"We're very glad to hear that 7UP has decided to stop sending out the message that it's OK to laugh about rape when it involves people in prison," Stemple said.

I know there is an urge to dismiss this as the work of overly sensitive do-gooders with no sense of humor. But this isn't a case of the that's-not-funny police running amok. There is plenty of room in advertising for spots that are politically incorrect, or that get a laugh off human calamities.

The current ad for Geico insurance that shows a pair of mischievous squirrels giggling and high-fiving after causing a car crash is hysterical, even if there's nothing intrinsically funny about totaling your wheels.

And even truly tasteless ads can have a place. In a new campaign for Midas - which is targeting the twenty-something crowd - an elderly woman marveling at the muffler company's lifetime guarantee suddenly strips off her blouse and asks a baffled mechanic: "What can you do with these?"

Now this is a gross ad, and I find it hard to believe that it's effective on any level, unless Midas is aiming for some long-term branding with, say, sixth-grade boys. But if the spot actually does motivate you Ford Focus-driving hipsters to choose Midas, then flash away, grandma.

Truth is, get creative near the edge and you're bound to offend some group or gore someone's ox or take a swipe at somebody's beliefs. That ought to be fair game.

A recent Jeep ad featured a rugged motorist driving past envious hunters with two lifeless deer strapped to the roof and hood. When he arrives at a "No Hunting" sign, the driver - in the obligatory advertising twist - cuts the animals free and sends them on their way with a comforting "You're safe now."

Hunters blasted the ad. But it's likely that just as many animal lovers were cheering, "Go, Bambi!" Nevertheless, Jeep pulled the ad, figuring there was little point in going out of its way to alienate sportsmen, who are among their core customers.

That's a strategic decision. But it does not parallel the 7UP ad. The "anti-rape community" is not some special-interest group to be tiptoed around or balanced against competing groups.

I drink tubs of 7UP, and I still will.

But this ad leaves a bad taste.