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Bannedwich! Offending ads pulled

That was fast! One day a series of Manwich commercials are going viral on YouTube. The next day they’re gone, and the company is doing furious damage control against charges of homophobia. What went wrong?

Three new commercials for ConAgra’s Manwich brand were posted April 6 by Leo Burnett Toronto. The 15-second spots show men talking about musical theater, shoes, and hair products. At the end of each ad, a hand suddenly reaches in from off-camera and slaps them in the face with a sandwich, and a big voice announces: “It’s called a Manwich!”

The spots never aired on TV, but got picked up on a few ad blogs.

Almost immediately, a petition appeared on Change.org asking for ConAgra to pull the ads. The petition argued:

“Violence against gender non conforming men and women is a serious problem in our country and should not be used for lazy jokes in advertising. Every year thousands of men and women are victims of hate crimes because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. This commercial series glorifies those crimes.”

ConAgra yanked the ads with impressive speed. A spokesperson from ConAgra responded to Change.org within an apology: “The Manwich videos posted on YouTube were not meant to offend and we apologize if anyone was offended. We pulled the videos down as soon as we became aware of them.”

* * * *

A YouTube channel for the campaign has already been deleted. But the ads are still available through a few other channels. Watch the commercials below and see if you’re offended:

* * * *

Imagine watching these ads from the point of view of a parent who’s kid has been the victim of anti-gay bullying. You can see why this kind of humor is problematic.

How is this worse than the “Man Up” commercials for Miller Lite—such as the skinny jeans commercial I like so much?

Two important differences:

1. The Miller Lite commercials depict bumbling guys who misunderstood a fashion trend and did something outside of their character. The men in the Manwich commercials, by contrast, appear sincere and at ease when they talk about things they like. It’s funny to make fun of someone for making a bad choice, but not funny to make fun of someone for being who they are.

2. The Miller Lite commercials don’t end with somebody getting hit.

* * * *

You might find it incredible that ConAgra’s communications team didn’t know about these ads until they hit the web. They should have, but with a sprawling international company it’s possible they didn’t. It’s also possible these were test ads never intended for a wide audience. In either case, there was a screw-up somewhere.

* * * *

Who created these ads?

Leo Burnett Toronto
Executive Creative Director: Judy John
Creative Director: Lisa Greenberg
Creative Group Head/Copywriter: Marcus Sagar
Art Director: Raul Garcia
Agency Producer: Julie Caniglia
Director: David Quinn
Sound: The Eggplant
Post production: The Vanity
(Credits via Bestadsontv.com.)

Who took responsibility for pulling them?

Jeff Mochal, Director of Communications & External Relations, ConAgra Foods

— By Daryl Lang. Filed under Advertising

One comment

  1. RJP3 says:

    The difference is the act of violence. But you knew that already.

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