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Two men kiss in an advert… cue outrage… June 25, 2008

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Society, Uncategorized.

Got to agree with Zoe Williams in the Guardian today. It’s a blink and you’ll miss it story since the advert for Heinz mayonnaise was pulled by the UK Advertising Standards Authority after 200 people complained about it.

The advert which you can see in a separate piece on the Guardian website here advertising goes as follows:

Heinz’s ad features a family on a normal morning routine with a boy and girl getting ready for school and their father preparing for the office.

Sandwiches are being prepared by a man with a New York accent, dressed in a deli serving outfit. The boy and girl refer to him as “mum”, and the father shares a kiss with him.

Now you or I might think that the twist, such as it is, isn’t about them being two gay men, but instead that Heinz mayonnaise spread on a sandwich is equivalent to being married to a New York deli worker. And the humorous dissonance in that twist is that it’s a man. So really, it isn’t about gay men, or gay lifestyles, but about the joke of having a deli worker (who happens to be male) in your kitchen, but so what if it were?

What’s astounding is that there are 200 people, or let’s be honest, probably 30 people spreading the calls around, who are exercised enough simply by a jokey television advert to ring in and complain.

As Williams notes:

[the] complaints about the Heinz mayonnaise ad, which – assuming a higher final tally – should make it one of the five most offensive this year.

Isn’t that great? One of the five most ‘offensive’. If this is offensive, what of Seinfeld, or the Office or Friends, all of which have depicted male/male clinches. And all of which are shown pre-watershed, at least on my television. Or is it that in some sort of voodoo-like fashion it is believed that these adverts have a more persuasive legitimating power than the programmes they intersperse?

But, again from Williams…

Complaints have centred on the fact that one man kissing another could be construed as homosexuality, and oblige parents to explain to children what that is.

Well, yes, but considering the prevalence of the word ‘gay’ as a term amongst children perhaps only those who live the most sheltered lives would be unaware of what ‘homosexuality’ is.

And further, there are some basic problems with that argument…

…never mind that mayonnaise can’t be advertised between kids’ programmes because the fat and salt content is too high. So it doesn’t matter that the product is so injurious to health that the mere mention of it is thought too toxic for pre-watershed telly; and it doesn’t matter that both the stated and tacit messages of the advert are nothing to do with sexuality of any sort, it’s a straight “mayonnaise is nice” underpinned by the British-ad fascination with men dressed as women revealed as men (think Bounty – wipe not bar).

Still I think Williams makes an even better point that given the number of advertisements which are arguably offensive it is a telling reflection on our laziness – or tolerance – that we aren’t picking up the telephone a bit more often to complain.

When an ad featuring men kissing is one of the most complained about, that matters: not as a reflection on the nation’s scattered homophobes breathing their last gasp, but as a sign that the rest of us don’t complain anything like enough.

And if it only takes 200 or so complaints to pitch an advert into the top five, well then perhaps we should be hitting the phones a bit more often.

Any contenders for most genuinely offensive?

Of course, it also strikes me that for some as bad as the homophobia – at least in the context of our media infused society – is the simple fact that when it comes down to it those making the complaints simply don’t get it…

Addendum: Ooops. Harpymarx got there faster and better than me on this topic. Mind you some of the comments are revealing…


1. Starkadder - June 25, 2008

Hmmm. The only “offensive” ad I can think in the
last few years was that
Bob Carlos Clarke one of a barber leering at an
attractive woman outside, much to the discomfort
of the barber’s “shavee”.

In Sicily or Egypt, it’s common for men to kiss or hold
hands,and they’d be quite shocked to hear of
any homosexual connotations to it.


2. WorldbyStorm - June 25, 2008

It’s tricky, isn’t it? I mentioned the Cadbury’s ads, they’re not quite offensive, just annoying…


3. Starkadder - June 25, 2008

What about the dodgy Lynx ad where two sets of women run
into each other and explode,being replaced by a
single more beautiful woman? A cross between
botox and suicide bombing?


4. Bartholomew - June 25, 2008

What about that Carlsberg ad with Fintan O’Toole in it?


5. harpymarx - June 26, 2008

“Harpymarx got there faster and better than me on this topic. Mind you some of the comments are revealing…”

Thanks WbS
You’re telling me re the comments!! All talk about “normalisation” bloody appalled me. One comment was utterly racist that I deleted him. But the level of “Shocked from Surbiton” comments and the stench of homophobia was overwhelming and revealing. How dare they dictate how people define their sexuality and their belief that being straight is the norm… Unbelievable!! Blinking unbelievable…


6. Wednesday - June 26, 2008

I’ve been sufficiently offended by two ads in the past couple years to complain about them. One was the Calvita ad where the little boy says he wants to grow up to be a footballer and the girl says she wants to grow up to be a WAG. The second was the Rabobank ad where the man says he’s going to put his SSIA into home improvements and the woman says she’s going to get “new boobs”.


7. WorldbyStorm - June 26, 2008

That’s great Wednesday, both were vile. Perhaps an adwatch would be no harm…

harpymarx, there was worse? I’d say that was unbelievable, but clearly not.


8. Harpymarx - June 26, 2008

“harpymarx, there was worse? I’d say that was unbelievable, but clearly not”.

Yeah there was unfortunately hence the deletion.


9. fionn - June 26, 2008


10. fionn - June 26, 2008

or rather: (thank god for germans)


11. fionn - June 26, 2008

darnit. here:


12. WorldbyStorm - June 26, 2008

Excellent. Sometimes cool and sometimes strict…


13. Adam - June 26, 2008

Hmm… offensive ads.

I tend to take offence on behalf of dogs when they’re treated as stupid by ads. Like the one a while ago (Eagle Star, I think) where a dog and cat were talking about what to do with “their” SSIA and the dog kept saying “lets get a speed boat” while the cat counselled him on prudent investment.

I figure the only remedy is to make an ad that points out how heartless a cat is and that it will stab you in your sleep if it thinks it will derive some benefit from it. Not sure how to fit that into an ad campaign for anything, though.

That Aero ad offends me somewhat – the one with that smug twat in a towel. So does the Kinder Bueno one where your woman robs the guy’s towel for fun (because she eats Bueno, you see). I want to see those ads done with the genders reversed, see how many complaints they get.

(That said, some of the male-focused ads for stuff like Lynx and Rustlers are pretty bad in that respect – although I’d argue not as much).

I also tend to take some offence at the underlying message of various adverts. Like the Carlsberg ‘memory hotel’ series, which implied that drinking Carlsberg makes you cultured and cool, with the added bonus of helping you forget your bad memories.

The Coors light ‘heatwave’ one a few years ago was similar. It showed a scorching hot day that suddenly froze over when someone cracked open a few Coors’. The undertone being that Coors Light solves your problems.

However it’s not like I have a “think of the children” reaction, nor do I feel that my moral integrity has been compromised as a result of watching these ads. I just feel very cynical about them.


14. WorldbyStorm - June 26, 2008

It’s funny, my least favourite ads, as distinct from most offensive (although sometimes the two categories overlap) are the ones which scream… ad awards!

You know the sort, the Guinness domino one was one, there was the beer one which also had stuff falling on top of other stuff and so on… quite a trend dominoes have been recently.


15. Paddy Matthews - June 27, 2008


or rather: (thank god for germans)

Ehmm…. Dutch


16. WorldbyStorm - June 27, 2008



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