I plopped down on the couch next to my twelve year old after a long, hot day of lacrosse. We both stared at the television as one naked woman sat on the bed in some gorgeous, tropical place and breezily ate a Chobani yogurt while her naked partner continued to sleep. As she licked the spoon, she seductively traced the outline of the other woman’s foot and then grabbed the sheet off of the bed and walked towards the beautiful ocean.
The intimacy of the moment made me blush a little.
I looked at my twelve year old who turned wide eyed to me and said, “Wait, what?”
I gathered myself and said, “I think they were selling yogurt.”
I refrained from sharing any opinions and asked, “So what did you think about that ad?”
She giggled, a little embarrassed and said, “Does that really have anything to do with yogurt?”
I nodded my head at the wisdom of my daughter.
I googled the commercial to read all the buzz on the internet. Some articles celebrated the ad while others were enraged and encouraged a boycott of Chobani. One article insisted that, “All [Chobani is] really doing is accepting and embracing equality and freedom for all people, which is something all Americans should be in favor of….I know this will fall on deaf ears, Conservatives, but hear this anyway: Some people are gay. Lots of other people, companies, and entities accept that fact. Get over it.”
It always makes me a little defensive when someone says, “Get over it.” It just never seems like a great way to start a kind, respectful conversation. It makes me want to actually write about something controversial on my blog, which I rarely do. “Accepting and embracing equality and freedom for all people.” Is that really what that commercial was doing, or was it more about the media’s constant need to use sex to sell a product?
If Chobani aired a commercial of me and my daily experience with their product, it probably wouldn’t sell a lot of yogurt. I also have to admit that when I eat yogurt, I don’t seductively lick the spoon like that woman in the ad. Nothing about my experience eating yogurt would cause a stir on the internet leading to a product boycott.
Chobani claims they want to create ads that “acknowledge all walks of life with modern American stories that reflect our fans and consumers.” Maybe many Chobani consumers wake up on an incredibly stunning beachfront property in a beautiful villa, but I don’t know a lot of them. While my husband and I would love to go somewhere tropical and romantic, that dream vacation ain’t happening anytime soon. And if it did, I wouldn’t invite you to watch me eat my yogurt seductively right before I traced the outline of my husband’s foot while he slept. Sorry, I know you are upset about that.
But Chobani pulled my 12 year and me into a really intimate moment with two people. For me that has nothing to do with embracing equality. No one I know would say, “Hey, Lori, my spouse and I are going to be naked together later, sharing something that we only share with each other. Why don’t you pull up a chair next to our bed and watch?”
We are forced to watch moments like that on television all the time. Ok, not forced because we choose to watch a baseball game or our favorite sitcom, but so many companies use sex to sell their product.
In reality, I guess I need to thank Chobani for reminding me of this tactic. When I was kid, we watched reruns of old shows where the husband and wife slept in twin beds. That always seemed a little strange to me, even as a kid, but as my television watching progressed, shows and ads began to change and less and less was left to the imagination. Now my children watch commercials where Kim Kardasian simulates sex with her personal trainer, but then announces that she is giving him up for a pair of Skechers. Or we watch boobs all over the screen to sell some type of cleaner or household product. And often, we all just watch like it’s no big deal. Because Chobani chose to use a same sex couple, which is somewhat new in advertising, it caught my attention. And it reminded me that sadly, a lot of other ads don’t catch my attention the way they should. At times I will make comments to my daughters when I see an ad like the Kardashian ad, and my girls will roll their eyes and say, “Mom, we know. We know.” But often we just watch some inappropriate ad, and I don’t even start a conversation. I don’t even acknowledge that we are watching something that should be treated with more respect. I used to, but I wonder if I am like the proverbial frog in a pot…you know, how they say if you put a frog in a boiling pot of water, it will jump right out, but if you start with cold water and gradually boil it, the frog won’t even react. I’ve allowed myself to become numb to something that matters.
I get tired of all of the exploitative and inappropriate messages that are constantly airing on the television. I am tired of companies using sex to sell everything and then people saying the ad was about freedom and equality, when in truth, I really don’t think that is what it was about. I am tired of not really knowing what to do about it. What would it take for our society to take steps towards a deeper respect for intimacy and sex?
Later that same night, McKenzie and I watched a Kleenex commercial. A young boy notices a girl crying on the bus and stops to share a Kleenex with her. He takes the time to notice that she is sad and risks a moment of kindness. I smiled at McKenzie and we did that “ahhhh” thing and I couldn’t help but think about what a different experience it was to watch that ad instead.
Both ads were thirty seconds long.
Advertising is powerful. When I saw Chobani at the grocery store yesterday, I confess I saw those two naked women sitting on their bed. I was not thinking about whether the yogurt is healthy or if it tastes better than Yoplait or Dannon. When I saw a box of Kleenex, I thought about their ad too. I thought about someone taking the time to be kind, to enter another person’s sadness, and it reminded me of how much I want to treat people like that too.
The mind is amazing. I want to be more aware of things I am thinking about. I want to talk to my daughters about how they are processing all that is around them. I have to take the time to do that because they are being bombarded with so many messages, and some are better than others. If I never take the time to ask, I will never know.