In the first days of October, Subway released a new Halloween themed commercial. Two friends are eating hamburgers for lunch, and a female friend who is eating with them, questions their lunch choice. The woman eating a hamburger responds that since swimsuit season is over, it shouldn’t really matter what she’s eating. The other woman eating a Subway sandwich says that she still needs to keep her weight off for her Halloween costume. Then she proceeds to model six different form-fitting and “sexy” costumes.
The commercial has been deemed sexist by viewers, arguing that it perpetuates the stereotype that women are sex objects and should be skinny, sexy and dress provocatively for Halloween. Some people were also upset because a man was watching her as she showed off the costumes and even asked her to try on a specific one again.
— Carrie Everett (@Carrie__Everett) October 7, 2014
Others have responded that viewers are overreacting and that Subway was just trying to have some fun. They are wondering what makes this commercial any worse than many other commercials that objectify women.
— Lisa (@blkberrygirl) October 7, 2014
— Chuck Mandracchia (@ChuckDrak) October 6, 2014
While Subway has benefitted from extremely successful campaigns, this isn’t the first time they have attracted controversy. They stepped on the toes of Muslims with their bacon commercial.
All companies vie for business, especially because consumers are busy and accustomed to seeing ads everywhere. Companies might feel that they need to go big or go home to catch consumers’ attention. Often times, a good way to capture their attention is by being edgy, provocative, funny and memorable. But sometimes, the advertisers’ intention is lost in translation, such as the case with the Halloween and bacon commercials.
I understand what Subway was trying to do. I don’t think they were trying to be sexist. I think they had an idea that they thought might be funny and relevant for the coming holiday and just executed it poorly. Michael Hackmer, founder of Social Web Tactics, wrote that if the commercial would have exaggerated their point even more, it would have worked. One of his suggestions was to have a slightly overweight male trying the costumes on instead of a woman, because consumers would find it funnier than the woman sampling them.
What do you think? Is it worth it for companies to try edgier campaigns to grab consumers’ attention? Should companies stick to safer but maybe more boring and generic commercials to avoid controversy?