Yesterday while on the elliptical machine at the gym and watching ESPN (surprise! women watch ESPN), I had the displeasure of seeing the new commercial for Dr. Pepper Ten no less than five times.
Dr. Pepper Ten is a new 10-calorie drink being rolled out by the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group Inc after their client research revealed that men are hesitant to drink diet drinks because they aren't "manly" enough.
The TV commercials that I watched showed men with huge muscles driving through the jungle, shooting guns, and battling snakes. The men say things like, "Hey ladies. Enjoying the film? Of course not. Because this is our movie and this is our soda, you can keep the romantic comedies and lady drinks. We're good."
According to several online reports (e.g., the MSNBC link above), the campaign also developed a Facebook page which contains an application that allows it to exclude women from viewing content. In addition, the page includes games and videos aimed at being "manly." Several twitter users also report that the campaign encourages viewers to "rat on their friends for not being manly". If true, I have no idea how "unmanly" behavior is being reported.
It is great that advertisers are using focus group and other data to develop products and ad campaigns. They taught many of us in public health the importance of these strategies and we are forever grateful. However...
This campaign promotes strict gender stereotypes: Men act like this and women act like this- no exceptions! This dangerous norm contributes to serious public health problems. For example, the traditional ideology of masculinity has been explored for its relationship to negative outcomes like bullying and high risk sexual behaviors.
This campaign attempts to encourage men to drink a "healthier" soda (less calories, real sweeteners) without making them feel like they are dieting...because after all- dieting is only for women. Too bad the obesity rate is hovering between 32-35% for both men and women.
I have seen weight loss/health for men done much more effectively by other companies without insulting viewers. For example, after they saw their services being utilized by more men, Weight Watchers and NutriSystem rolled out men's programs. Weight Watchers presents strategies for making healthy choices in settings where men may find themselves socially (e.g., at a BBQ or at the bar). To reduce the social stigma around participation, they recruited strong male role models like former NFL quarterback Dan Marino. An ABC story on the companies' programs says "Calorie Counting Can Be Macho".
The strategy used by NutriSystem and Weight Watchers to reduce the stigma around healthy behaviors will be much more effective long-term than simply tricking people into being healthy.
For those readers who think I'm only offended by the campaign because I'm a woman, please see a few tweets from Tuesday night...authored by men. The first by my husband, who wrote multiple posts on Dr. Pepper Ten before I ever voiced my disgust with this campaign:
@jeff_underscore: "Dr. Pepper 10 - I think your ad campaign is insane, insensitive and sexist and unfortunately everywhere".
@sorryeveryone: ".@drpepper i really liked your soda but you know what I like more? treating women like they're human beings and letting men be themselves".
Readers: What do you think of this campaign? Do you think it will be effective in getting men to drink these "healthier" sodas?