Thursday, September 06, 2007

Does This Ad Strike Too Close to Home?

The Trojan condom company launched a new ad campaign over the summer called "Evolve." It is of note because, in the words of the corporate press release (here), it uses "animated images of pigs to humorously represent self-centered, immature, and thoughtless behavior. The 'hero' transforms from a pig to a man when he demonstrates responsibility by choosing to use condoms." The campaign is ostensibly designed to encourage self-respect among men and respect for their potential female sexual partners and uses pigs to represent that lack of humanity. The pigs for the commercial were created by Stan Winston Studios. You can find two short videos about the making of the commercial here on the main Trojan Evolve website. The ad campaign was created by the Kaplan Thaler Group. Its chief creative officer, Linda Kaplan Thaler, notes that "Some people may be initially surprised by the imagery, but we're really using the pigs as a metaphor for selfish behavior to call to attention a very important subject."

The Fox and CBS networks have refused to run this ad. According to the New York Times article "Pigs with Cellphones, but no Condoms" (here) about the controversy, Fox rejected the spot because "Contraceptive advertising must stress health-related uses rather than the prevention of pregnancy." CBS wrote, "while we understand and appreciate the humor of this creative, we do not find it appropriate for our network even with late-night-only restrictions." Many commentators have pointed out the hypocrisy here given the often salacious nature of the programming and the ubiquitous ads for erectile dysfunction treatments that run on these networks.

Few commentators I've seen have had anything to say about the porcine content of these ads. Most have simply agreed that the campaign is funny and clever. Some bloggers have concurred with the presmise that most men are pigs, especially when young, in groups, and out drinking in bars trying to pick up women. I wonder, though, if it's the way this campaign makes the metaphor real that is ultimately creating people's discomfort. After all, it's one thing to say that men are pigs, but to show it with quasi-realistic animatronic animals perhaps mobilizes our fear and disgust about our kinship with non-human animals. As Erica Fudge notes in her wonderful book Animal (Reaktion, 2002), this kind of metaphorical use of the animal highlights the "failure of humanity" and can provoke a desire to wipe out this kinship through mastery, control, and domination. I guess we'll have to see if the sales of Trojan brand condoms rise as young people seek to bolster their human-ness.

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