SPAIN: Snickers in Spain has pulled a controversial TV advertisement that was heavily criticised for being homophobic, and has apologised for any “misunderstanding that may have been caused”.
The 20-second commercial shows the Spanish influencer Aless Gibaja with a friend at a beach bar ordering a “sexy orange juice with vitamins A, B and C”. The friend exchanged puzzled looks with the waiter who responds later by handling Gibaja a Snickers ice-cream bar. After taking a bite, Gibaja appears to transform into a bearded man.
“Better?” the friend asks. “Better,” replies the transformed man in a low voice as the tagline reads: “You’re not yourself when you’re hungry.”
The advert was widely called out after it began circulating online this week, with some asking for a boycott of the brand. The State Federation of Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals also condemned it, saying that it was “shameful and unfortunate that there are companies that continue to perpetuate stereotypes and promote homophobia” in a tweet.
Spain’s equality minister, Irene Montero, also had some words of criticism to give.
“I wonder to whom it might seem like a good idea to use homophobia as a business strategy,” she wrote on Twitter.
“Our society is diverse and tolerant. Hopefully, those who have the power to make decisions about what we see and hear in commercials and TV shows will learn to be too.”
In the wake of homophobic attacks
The incident comes weeks after Spain was shocked by the fatal beating of a 24-year-old Samuel Luiz in an alleged homophobic attack. The ruthless act called for nationwide protests.
In another incident in May, five gay men were injured in three attacks during a single weekend in Barcelona.
The far-left wing party Podemos pointed out that the killing was part of a series of homophobic attacks across Spain that have made headlines in recent months.
“In the face of a wave of LGBTI-phobia, including attacks and even murders, Snickers can’t think of a better idea than to create a trashy commercial that tells you that you are not yourself if you are effeminate,” the party said on Twitter.
Words of Apology
On Thursday, Snickers Spain said it was deleting the advert and apologised for “any misunderstanding it may have caused.”
“In this specific campaign, the aim was to convey in a friendly and casual way that hunger can change your character,” it said in a statement posted online.
“At no time has it been intended to stigmatize or offend any person or group.”
A spokesperson for Mars Wrigley, which owns the Snickers brand, said the firm wholeheartedly apologised for any harm caused by the advert and recognised that it “got it wrong”.
“We take equal rights and inclusion seriously, we want a world where everybody is free to be themselves and we believe that as an employer and advertiser we have a role and a responsibility to play our part in creating that world,” the spokesperson added.
In 2008, a Snickers advert that featured the A-Team’s Mr T calling a speed walker a “disgrace to the man race” was pulled after accusations it was offensive to gay people.