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Flashback: Snickers Ad Slanders Cleveland

February 8, 2007

The controversy over the ill-conceived and arguably homophobic Snickers Super Bowl ad continues to simmer for its parent company Masterfoods. AmericaBlog reports that Masterfoods is in "full crisis mode" over the spot and that "heads will roll" to ensure that Snickers marketing never again insults large swaths of the American public. But sadly, Snickers is a repeat offender. Just ask fans of the Cleveland Browns.
In 1996, Snickers rolled out is "Not Going Anywhere for a While?" campaign including a spot featuring two bewildered football fans gazing out from their seats at an empty stadium. As the camera panned to the end zone, viewers see "Cleveland Browns" painted in orange and brown on the grass. Browns owner Art Modell, of course, had just relocated the team to Baltimore in one of the bitterest sports controversies in recent history. As it turned out, those Snickers-eating Browns fans would have four years on their hands.

For die hard Browns fans, the Snickers ad was no joke. So I decided to make a joke of my own at the expense of Snickers' customer service department. I sent an email feigning outrage, claiming that the company had insulted Browns fans everywhere, good people from the American heartland who worked hard and played by the rules. I assured them that many denizens of the Dawg Pound would boycott their "third-rate" products, dubious chocolates and questionable ingredients in favor of foofy, world-class European brands like Lindt, Droste and Toblerone.
The joke, as it turned out, was on me. Within hours, I received an incredibly apologetic response from a mid-level marketing manager at Mars (now Masterfoods). The company, he pleaded, meant no offense to followers of the Browns and valued them as customers. On behalf of Mars, he continued, he would be only too happy to send me s case of Snickers or any other Mars product.
Chastened by his immediate response and shocking pathetic groveling, I turned down his offer and thanked him for his attention and courtesy.
In retrospect, that was probably a mistake. (Not saving the email thread was another.) Fast-forward to 2007 and the Snickers folks are offering the same formulaic "unpology" to fair-minded Americans they once served up to Cleveland Browns fans. "We know that humor is highly subjective and understand that some people may have found the ad offensive," Masterfoods Consumer Care wrote, adding "clearly that was not our intent."
As for the Snickers advertising mavens, here's some friendly advice. Don't wear a Snickers t-shirt in San Francisco or a Steelers jersey in Cleveland.

2 comments on “Flashback: Snickers Ad Slanders Cleveland”

  1. I was looking for clip clip. I wouldn't consider the commercial in bad taste it was by any accounts it was bold. But, that being said it was one of the BEST commercials of all time.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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