I’ve talked a lot about the importance of authenticity. Companies today must walk the walk. Consumers – both advocates and protagonists – are watching what you do as well as what you say. You want to create a brand? Everything you say and do must reinforce that brand image.
So – along comes Dodge’s new commercial for their Caliber model now known as "silly little fairy" though officially known as "Too Tough". Many are crying out that the commercial is homophobic at best and pure gay bashing at worst. Bob Garfield lends his thoughts on the matter in this AD Age article.
Faggot. Queer. Fairy. These are synonyms, epithets one and all disparaging gays — or, more often, heterosexual men deemed insufficiently masculine. Let’s call that Fact No. 1.
Fact No. 2: Dodge is marketing its new Caliber subcompact as a tough little car, as opposed to sissy little Civics, Corollas and the like. This comports with Dodge’s long-cultivated macho image, as exemplified by the grunting, Aerosmith heavy-metal music tag punctuating every spot.
Fact No. 3 is that one of the introductory commercials from BBDO, Detroit, features the juxtaposition of a burly tough guy and his Doberman with a sweater-draped girlie man who is walking four little lap dogs. Fact No. 4 is that the only line of dialogue in the commercial is the burly dude exclaiming, "Silly little fairy!"
And Fact No. 5 — the genuinely astonishing fact — is that Daimler Chrysler asserts that none of the above is meant to invoke a sexual insult.
Now – do I like the commercial? No. I don’t find it funny or even remotely amusing. But does it convey the message Dodge wants to convey? I think it does. If you’re a manly man, full of testosterone, wanting to drive something ugly and solid as opposed to cute and effeminate, if you want to feel secure in that manhood and convey to the rest of the world what a manly man you are – this car is for you. No one will ever mistake you for a sissy or a fairy queer guy.
You could take it even further – why don’t you add those fake truck balls you see hanging from the back of trucks just to prove your point. “I have balls and everything I do is going to prove to you I have balls even if I have to hang fake ones from the back of my car.”
My problem with Dodge is – they are denying that this is the message.
When accused of gay bashing and the double entendre of fairy – they are apparently claiming they didn’t realize the double entendre of “fairy” and intended no gay references whatsoever.
"Was it intentional? Absolutely not," says spokeswoman Suraya Bliss, whose voice quavered as she spoke, perhaps because she was choking on the corporate line. "It’s not the kind of company we are."
Oh puhleeeeeeze. I have officially lost any and all respect for Dodge. Not so much for the ad, but for their response to it. I know in this politically correct day they couldn’t come right out and say, “Yeah – fairy, double entendre, feminine guy in sweater with faggy dogs – you figure out what we’re trying to say.” But denying any intentional slam? “ohmigosh, people mistook “fairy” in direct conjunction with a burly man turned into an effeminate man in a sweater with poofy little dogs as a reference to gays? How could they possibly have come to that conclusion. We certainly didn’t”.
And Enron’s Kenneth Lay and Worldcom’s Bernie Ebbers and Tycos’ Dennis kozlowski all had no idea of the fraud going on at their companies. Nothing reeks of hypocrisy like a company head or spokesperson blatantly lying to your face. The public is smarter than that.
If you’re going to take a tough/controversial stance – back it up. Don’t run cowardly away when you’re called on something. Instead of proving they have balls, Dodge did just the opposite.