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
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
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.