No Responsible Sex, Please–We’re American TeeVee

condom ad

The hypocrisy–it burns. American network television has the ability to enlighten and educate countless millions through PSA’s (public service announcements) and commercial advertising promoting condoms. Yet sanctimonious, look-the-other-way attitudes prevail over here, and condom advertising remains one of those experiences you’re more likely to have in foreign lands. I wish this was a function of our country’s blissful freedom from serious problems like HIV and other STD’s. Hardly. I wish this meant that America was not, in fact, a country besieged with so many unwanted pregnancies that it held the dubious honor of having one of the highest abortion rates in the developed world.

What it is, however, is yet more evidence of a different serious problem–one that ironically seems more prevalent in America than elsewhere these days, which is to say, powerful right-wing religious groups controlling what the masses can and cannot see. To wit: another condom commercial–one that sounds rather funny in an eye-rolling kind of way–has been rejected by two of America’s largest TV networks (my emphasis).

In a commercial for Trojan condoms that has its premiere tonight, women in a bar are surrounded by anthropomorphized, cellphone-toting pigs. One shuffles to the men’s room, where, after procuring a condom from a vending machine, he is transformed into a head-turner in his 20s. When he returns to the bar, a fetching blond who had been indifferent now smiles at him invitingly.

Directed by Phil Joanou (“State of Grace”), with special effects by the Stan Winston Studio (“Jurassic Park”), the commercial is entertaining. But it also has a message, spelled out at the end: “Evolve. Use a condom every time.”

“We have to change the perception that carrying a condom for women or men is a sign they’re on the prowl and just want to have sex,” said Linda Kaplan Thaler, chief executive of the Kaplan Thaler Group, the New York advertising agency that created the “Evolve” campaign. “It’s a sign of somebody being prepared — if the opportunity arises — to think about their own health and the health and safety of their partner.”

But the pigs did not fly at two of the four networks where Trojan tried to place the ad.


Representatives for both Fox and CBS confirmed that they had refused the ads, but declined to comment further.

In a written response to Trojan, though, Fox said that it had rejected the spot because, “Contraceptive advertising must stress health-related uses rather than the prevention of pregnancy.”

In its rejection, 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.”

“It’s so hypocritical for any network in this culture to go all puritanical on the subject of condom use when their programming is so salacious,” said Mark Crispin Miller, a media critic who teaches at New York University. “I mean, let’s get real here. Fox and CBS and all of them are in the business of nonstop soft porn, but God forbid we should use a condom in the pursuit of sexual pleasure.”

Hmmm…so ads depicting middle-aged white guys dragging their wives into lingerie stores because they’ve suddenly grown a pair of big V-for-Viagra horns are appropriate for network television.

Ads showing pharmaceutically-enhanced middle-aged white guys abandoning their car-washing activities mid-stream, fiddling with the hose so it can spray on its own, and nipping indoors with their female partners for a hand-rubbed finish are also appropriate for network television.

But ads that promote the use of condoms during the very act such medicines purport to support? Banned!

I’m especially irritated that these think-tank people (and the networks who love them) seemingly frown upon using condoms to prevent unwanted pregnancy and allow enjoyable, non-procreative sex–and reject that sort of ad–while giving the odd pass to efforts that stress disease-prevention, which is clearly the more noble purpose of condoms in their opinion. Both purposes are important, of course, but admitting this is tantamount to accepting that people might actually be engaging in the whole messy act with something other than family-makin’ on the mind. For purposes that have to do with, oh, enjoyment and escape and pleasure, for starters. And they can’t have that, you know.

Not until they can figure out a way to tax it.

Contraceptive advertising is meant for grownups, yes, and any group of network suits possessed of a collective brain-cell count in the double-digits would want to aim such commercials at adults and air them at the appropriate times (as in, not on Saturday morning). Other countries–even Latin American ones with large Catholic populations–have been able to get this, and the results are entertaining and memorable (two very good things to be if you’re a commercial that wants to be, ah, effective). A few of litbrit’s picks:

This funny French one hits uncomfortably close to home:

And from Argentina, bless them, comes this awesome ad:

Another French ad (and another too-close-to-home scenario for me!):

Finally, for pure belly laughs (or else howls and shrieks of the better-you-than-me variety) nothing beats this one (the actor is American or Canadian, but I’ve never seen this aired in the States–have any readers?):

(H/T Lisa in Baltimore)

Also at litbrit.



Filed under 03_litbrit

40 responses to “No Responsible Sex, Please–We’re American TeeVee

  1. Angelos

    Funny, I just sent a link about this to Liss.

    And links??

    I’m guessing though, by the description and your writing history about your boys, the fist missing link is the one in the grocery store. That’s a great one.

  2. I had embedded the videos–over and over, in fact–but I can’t seem to get them to appear. Weird.

    Yes, the grocery store is indeed the first one!

  3. Melissa McEwan

    I had embedded the videos–over and over, in fact–but I can’t seem to get them to appear. Weird.

    It’s some glitch we’ve got that only allows me to add video. I’m working on it.

    And in the meantime, I’ve added the video. 😉

  4. Okay, count me with those that got to the point of collapsing in laughter at that last one, causing hiccups because I have to keep it in here at work …

    Though, I have to say, speaking as someone that has seen remarkably similar expressions at the supermarket and eleswhere as in that first French advert, I have had similar thoughts about the parents.

    Oh, and as to Fox and CBS: you stupid reactionary fucks. I personally think they are bloody creative, and given all the imagery that goes into the Viagara (I’m sorry, but you don’t have ‘ED’, you’re fucking impotent, mate … there’s only one ED, and that’s an Eating Disorder. You lot already had a bloody term for it) and Viagara-like drugs (I mean, throwing a football through the hole in a tire-swing? Could we get any less subtle?), the one’s for these adverts are way less sexual.

    Personally I’d love for both the first French one AND the Argentinian one to air on US television in english, just to hear the lovely sound of thousands of fundie brains exploding.

  5. Reba

    Why are you suprised? These are the same networks that won’t accept ads from United Church of Christ but will air hour-long evangelical services.

  6. THANK you, Liss. I hope the storm turns elsewhere, too–that sounds like a mean-looking sky.

  7. Jeff

    CBS had no problem airing a show (the legen.. wait for it.. How I Met Your Mother) in which two characters are getting ready to “knock boots” and they realize that neither has a condom. So they decide to “risk it” — because there are no stores selling condoms in NYC.

    That would have been a perfect place for a condom ad, but noooooooo. Jerks.


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  9. Mary

    That actor in the Durex ad is American, probably from Michigan, given that he pronounces “condom” “cawhn-dim”. Damn funny, but probably an amateur production or a spec ad, like the Nutri Grain “I feel GREAT” ad.

  10. I don’t think a condom ad could get much more explicit than the erectile drugs ads – especially with the long lists of potential side effects like priapism. The image of Mike Ditka throwing a football through a tire does not leave much to the imagination. I think I would rather see pigs in a bar.

  11. TLB

    Gawd I hate America some times. We’re like the slack-jawwed yokels of the world, so unenlightened like the French or the Argentinians. Anyone else interested in moving to France with me?

  12. bernarda

    This link is to an individual’s video, but there are links there that go to real advertizing spots.

  13. Man you are a backward lot. Here in Spain they are advertising condoms with different TASTES!

    Like a guy is sitting in his kitchen obviously early morning, eating an apple. Young lady walks through and takes the apple from him and takes a big bite.

    Guy: Hey, I thught you didn’t like apple.

    Gal: I do now.

    Then they swing to the product, condoms with three different fruit flavors. I believe everyone gets the message.

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  15. TLB, are you trying to be clever or funny or something? Wow–sorry it didn’t work out so well. (See O’Reilly, Bill: How to tell people who criticize Anything American to leave the country if they don’t like it., followed by Bush, George W.: Approval ratings among Americans.)

    And you know, America actually does lag behind the rest of the developed world when it comes to treating grownups like grownups and marketing to them accordingly. And there most certainly is a need for greater condom use in this country: as the Trojans own rep said, “Right now in the U.S. only one in four sex acts involves using a condom. That’s dramatically below usage rates in other developed countries. Our goal is to dramatically increase use.”

  16. Just saw the pig ad on Spike TV. What a surprise. (I only watch it for Star Trek: Voyager.)

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  18. oddjob

    For purposes that have to do with, oh, enjoyment and escape and pleasure, for starters. And they can’t have that, you know.

    Sully’s libertarian streak shows when he talks about this issue, particularly as it pertains to the use of psychotropics, most particularly marijuana. Few issues show America’s legacy of religious oppression (particularly the intense influence Calvinism has long had on its culture) better than this.

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  20. Lizard

    Lord, can you imagine how Leslee Unruh and her coven would react to those foreign advertisements? “People who advocate contraception hate all children! Condoms have a 50% chance of making you gay and a 100% chance of making you polyamorous! Women who have sex using condoms neglect their children! The ads prove it!!!

    And of COURSE Fox was going to reject an ad that promoted both contraception and evolution. (Cue Ken Ham: “The evolutionist/contraceptionists would have you believe that our ancestors were promiscuous porcines!”)


    The image of Mike Ditka throwing a football through a tire does not leave much to the imagination. I think I would rather see pigs in a bar.

    Oh, wouldn’t Bill Swerski’s superfans have fun with that?

  21. Ivory Bill Woodpecker

    Sarah said, “…the lovely sound of thousands of fundie brains exploding”.

    Are microscopic explosions audible? 😛

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  23. The Viagra ads are about men having sex for reasons other than wanting babies.

    The pig condom ads include women interested in sex for reasons other than wanting babies.

    So, it’s not just about sex. It’s something else I can’t quite see….

  24. hk

    Are we forgetting those damn Axe ads? I can’t see how this commercial is in any way more suggestive than those.

  25. Jeff

    Mustang Bobby: Just saw the pig ad on Spike TV. What a surprise. (I only watch it for Star Trek: Voyager.)

    I was going to ask if you watched Ninja Warrior, but that’s on G4. It seems like it should be a Spike show!

  26. See a satirical tongue-in-cheek visual of an Evangelical Brand Products ad that responds to the Trojan condom ad campaign and that would be acceptable to Fox and CBS…the networks that rejected the Trojan ad…here:

  27. so good to have you back my dear. but remember, we were founded by hypocrites. jefferson could right stirring prose about freedom and the rights of man, but back in ’61 when i first went to monticello they had this brick pit off in a corner of one of the barns. it was a slave pit where the newly arrived or recalcitrint would begin their “education.” oh, yeah, and the descendents of sally hemmings have be connected to jefferson’s family through DNA (no conclusive proof that jefferson was the father, but, even sherman’s soldiers remarked in disgust at “all the little half-white babies running around the slave quarters.”

    and for all their talk about the concepts of equality and stuff, remember, one of the distinguishing things about our rebellion is that it originated and was prosecuted by the middle class. old blighty had simply become bad for business. especially if your business was smuggling, like hancock’s.

    i used to get real worked up while i was attending ASU and there were all these earnest white motherfuckers all worked up over the injustice of aparthied in south africa. i would tell them “i grew up on an indian reservation about a three hour drive away from here. i’ve been on the receiving end of this stuff my whole life. why don’t you fucking demand that you disinvest your fucking self?”

  28. Casey

    I don’t know, I feel like this ad might be setting up Nice Guy syndrome: “Hey guys! Having trouble getting laid because you’re a jerk? Here at Trojan, we believe that if you take a basic safety precaution, the chicks will be all over you!”

    “Aw man, every time I walk out of the men’s room, proudly shoving a single condom in every girl’s face, they act weird and walk away! WOMEN DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY WANT!”

    That Argentinian ad is solid gold. I saw the Barbie punch line coming, but didn’t expect what was after it. Kudos, South America!

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  38. Just saw the pig ad on Spike TV. What a surprise. (I only watch it for Star Trek: Voyager.)

    Ha! I think we saw it at the same time.

    I found the whole “men as pigs” to be kinda annoying. But then, I don’t think I’m the target audience, and it was also really non-suggestive for commercials period, much less a condom commercial.

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