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The UK 'snickers' at Americans' ad meddling

by Andy Harley

It is fair to say that gay UK is snickering over that TV commercial that was shown on our commercial television channels that caused offence in the USA where the ad was not shown. You know, the sports one for Snickers Bars with Mr. T.

Everyone here, including gays, thought the ad was funny. And no one was offended well make that just two people out of 60 million. Those two complained about the ad to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), who have not revealed the reason of the two complaints.

Just two complaints do not even trigger a formal viewing by the ASA of an ad, let alone an "investigation" into whether it broke any of the very stringent rules on advertising we have here.

Yet the ad was ordered pulled by Mars Inc. following a complaint by the American LGB group, Human Rights Campaign who claimed that it was "homophobic."

Obviously, HRC has no sense of humour and absolutely no knowledge of sports.

You see, this was all about something America calls "speed walking," known in the rest of the world as simply "walking" - an Olympic sport.

To comply with the track and field rules for competitive walking, all of the foot, including the heel, must touch the ground with every step.

To do this, and to get any speed, one has to "wiggle one's caboose." Yes, and to many people not involved in this kinds of competitive walking, it can look "silly."

In the ad, Mr. T gives a clue. "Speed walking. I pity you, fool. You a disgrace to the man race. It's time to run like a real man," he yells at the athlete as he lets rip with his machine gun that uses Snickers Bars for ammo. This causes the the athlete to break the rules of walking and go into a run.

The logic of HRC's objection is that they will now be trying to get NBC to "pull" coverage of the walking events at the Olympics next month for fear of the competitors upsetting US gays by the "caboose wiggling" that would not have put the late Marilyn Monroe to shame.

And, who knows, HRC might even be contacting the IOC to have the events banned.

"Baa, humbug," Charles Dickens wrote.

Lighten up, HRC. And remember that this ad was made by Mars UK Ltd for showing on UK television. It was perfectly acceptable here - not even Stonewall (roughly our equivalent to HRC) has made any public statement of complaint.

I would have thought that HRC had a lot more pressing things to do - like putting the "T" back into LGBT (the "T" was shoved under the bus recently) or even addressing the same-sex marriage/civil unions/civil partnerships, ENDA and DADT - than reviewing British TV ads and misinterpreting them.

Now, had some American organisation representing "speed walkers" complained that the ad was or "walkerphobic" (demeaning to "speed walkers"), that would be another matter. And walkers are the first to poke fun at themselves.

But even so, should Americans have any say on what is shown on British television?

I think not...and note, not a word on the Nike ad that caused a rumpus in USA this past weekend. It is not shown here.









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Originally published on Monday July 28, 2008.


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