Mars Pulls Snickers Super Bowl Spot

Gay Groups Denounce Ad In Which Two Men Kiss as Homophobic

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NEW YORK ( -- It seems Mars had an inkling before the Super Bowl that two men's bellicose reactions after they accidentally kiss in its Snickers campaign might spark complaints from gay and lesbian organizations.

The Snickers spot that aired during the big game, along with alternate endings and NFL player commentary online, were pulled yesterday in response to accusations of prejudice and homophobia from groups including the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

But a spokesman for GLAAD said the debacle could have been avoided. According to GLAAD, Snickers' agency, TBWA/Chiat/Day, New York, contacted the group on Jan. 10 to ask it to review a spot -- GLAAD is not certain whether it was the Snickers spot -- but called back the next day to say it no longer needed the group's assistance.

The reason for the change of heart is unclear; spokespeople from TBWA and Mars did not comment by press time. But one thing is quite clear: Everybody is talking about Snickers.

According to Mars' statement announcing it was pulling the ad, "As with all of our Snickers advertising, our goal was to capture the attention of our core Snickers consumer. ... Feedback from our target consumers has been positive." The ad that aired during the game, the statement said, ranked in the top 10 among reviewers. (Ad Age's Bob Garfield was not among them, ranking the spot dead last in his Feb. 5 AdReview.) "We do not plan to continue to air the ad on television or on our Snickers website," as its intention was not to offend, the statement said.

"I don't think you have to offend people to break through, as Coke and Anheuser-Busch have clearly proven," said Landor Managing Director Allen Adamson. "But the pressure to break through is so intense for marketers that they are taking on more and more risk as to what is attention-getting in good taste and what is attention-getting in poor taste."

Crossing the line
"Anytime you do something that crosses that line, you assume greater brand risk that you will offend sections of the population that don't find it funny," Mr. Adamson said. "I assume that spot offended a lot of people," most importantly a large group that "has an infrastructure to get its voice heard."

Richard Laermer, author of "Punk Marketing" and CEO of public-relations firm RLM, had a different take. "For a candy bar to stand out, [its spot] has to be something that people will talk about," he said, and Mars' decision to pull the ad -- which he found "really funny" -- was a mistake.

"They should have let the creative stand for itself, if in fact the ad stood for the attributes of the brand," he said.

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