Revulsion No. 9 —
The whole point of advertising is to grab your attention, right? It doesn’t matter if the commercial has anything to do with your product, so long as people are talking and thinking about your commercial. There is no greater example of this than Super Bowl ads.
Last night, Go Daddy scored a major victory by making the entire internet squirm with disgust at the sight of supermodel Bar Refaeli making out with a fat, ruddy-faced nerd.
Go Daddy attempts to make the kiss relevant to their product by explaining that their domain registration service is made up of a sexy side and a smart side. It’s a pretty flimsy excuse to basically squick people out. In fact, the extended version is even more disturbing because we see Walter the Nerd using his tongue like a runaway Roto-Rooter.
But in order to maximize the Ick Factor, casting had to choose just the right nerd to evoke enough disgust to spark the kind of water cooler talk that would maximize Go Daddy’s ad buy. So, not only does he have glasses and a Jewfro, but he’s fat. And these days, fat is short-hand for “Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeew gross!”
The ploy worked. Since yesterday, the official Go Daddy YouTube version of the commercial has over 6.5 million hits.
Twitter exploded with predictable disgust because, if there’s one thing we can count on in this culture, it’s the universal disgust of fat people.
I’ve always felt like that was the key behind the success of the Mr. Mucus commercials for Mucinex.
The original 2004 commercial features Mr. Mucus (the disgusting, fat glob of snot you can’t quite cough up) being evicted from your lungs thanks to Mucinex. Then in 2005, we were introduced to Mrs. Mucus, another blobby character intended to gross us out.
And, of course, when they released Mucinex for kids, they introduced Mucus Jr., the fat kid who’s just as gross as his parents.
And soon there was an entire cast of fat, green Mucus people living in our lungs, which Mucinex could help expel.
So is anyone surprised that society picks up on the fact that these characters are fat? Or that people would compare Mrs. Mucus to Sonia Pizarro of Operation Repo?
Advertisers know that there is an immediate, negative reaction to seeing really fat people, so if you cast fatties properly, you can provoke disgust in just the way you want. For Mucinex, that means personifying mucus as the obesity epidemic within. And unlike the real-world obesity epidemic, this one can be solved with just one little pill.
The result for Mucinex has been overwhelmingly positive, according to M’lou Arnett, vice president for marketing of Adams Repiratory Therapeutics, the company behind the ads:
To be specific, it was a 61% jump from $98.9 million for the previous fiscal year ended June 30, 2004. Mr. Mucus is still getting the job done: Sales for the most recent quarter were up 75% to $63.2 million from the year-before quarter.
“Never before in my business career have I seen a response like Mucinex to advertising,” [Arnett] says. “People have responded so well to the theme and the idea comes out so clear with the Mr. Mucus visual.”
Could this have to do with the fact that people are so repulsed by headless fatties? I believe so.
Exploiting our disdain for fat people isn’t the only weight-related theme being used by advertisers.
Last year, I also wrote about a Verizon Wireless commercial that appeals to our obsession with weight loss. By featuring a father who wants to lose weight for his daughter’s wedding, Verizon makes the case that its apps can motivate fatties to lose weight (apps that are available on just about any other phone, mind you). Suddenly, phones are magic weight loss devices!
At the time, I asked if anyone had noticed any other commercials that invoked weight or weight loss for a seemingly non-weight-related product. Well, recently I’ve been listening to Pandora and I’ve been hearing a commercial for Charter Internet that does just that.
The following is a condensed transcription of the commercial that I’ve heard about 5,000 times now:
Is your internet flabby, slow and out of shape? Well get ready, because you’re about to learn the secret to getting the tight, toned, fast internet you’ve always wanted. Charter gives you more power to support more devices. No more waiting, just pure internet power. So go from buffering to buff with Charter Internet.
That wording could have been ripped right from a Soloflex infomercial. Really, Charter? You’re invoking weight loss motifs to persuade people to buy your services?
Because, I gotta tell ya, I’ve got Charter at home and if their service is the antithesis of “flabby” internet, then I’d hate to see what an out-of-shape connection looks like.
Once again, it’s about appealing to that broad market segment that has become so persuaded by messages of slenderness and health that it resonates even in a commercial for internet service.
Talented advertisers know how to push our buttons. They know how to exploit our anxieties and fears, and as the War on Fat has gotten more intense, advertisers know they can count on this knee-jerk revulsion to provoke its audience.
It’s sad and disturbing, but not surprising. And I imagine that it will only get worse before it gets better.
Have you noticed any other examples of commercials that provoke society’s animosity toward fatties?