Snickers' “Mechanics” spot from TBWA/Chiat/Day New York was the most controversial commercial to air during Super Bowl XLI: Two guys' overreaction after an accidental "Lady and the Tramp"-style kiss prompted complaints by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, the Human Rights Campaign and others.
The spot ranked ninth on both USA Today's annual Ad Meter popularity contest and IAG's survey of 15,602 Super Bowl viewers on their most-liked ads. Snickers might also have tried to argue that the creative made fun of the protagonists precisely for their homophobia.
But it's hard to count on landing that sort of nuance on Super Bowl Sunday, and an accompanying website showed players from the game's teams reacting unenthusiastically to the kiss.
"This type of jeering from professional sports figures at the sight of two men kissing fuels the kind of anti-gay bullying that haunts countless gay and lesbian school children on playgrounds all across the country," the Human Rights Campaign said in a statement.
A spokesman for GLAAD told Ad Age after the Super Bowl that the debacle could have been avoided. According to GLAAD, TBWA contacted the group Jan. 10 to ask it to review a spot -- which ad was in question remained unclear -- but called back the next day to say it no longer needed the group's assistance.
Snickers pulled the ad after the complaints, noting its good showing on USA Today's Ad Meter all the same. "We know that humor is highly subjective and understand that some people may have found the ad offensive," a spokeswoman said. "Clearly that was not our intent."
Several other marketers have been reminded about humor's subjectivity over many Super Bowls. See also Groupon's "Tibet" in 2011, HomeAway's "Test Baby" the same year, GM's "Robot" in 2007 and of course Just for Feet's "Kenya" in 1999.
After 2007, Snickers sat out the Super Bowl until making a triumphant return with Betty White in 2010 ("Game").
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