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Advertisers make super blunders

GM "Sad robot" ad

Snickers ad

Bud Light "Rock, paper, scissors" ad

KAI RYSSDAL: There's really no way to get into this next story other than to say you'd think companies spending $2.6 million for a 30-second television ad would've had more common sense. Four days after the Super Bowl advertisers are backing away from their ads faster than you can say Peyton Manning.

Masterfoods, which makes Snickers candy bars, and General Motors are among some of the firms being criticized for ads critics call homophobic, violent, or likely to endanger people feeling suicidal. Pat Loeb takes it from there.


PAT LOEB: The GM ad features a perfection-obsessed robot considering suicide after dropping a bolt on the assembly line. GM spokeswoman Ryndee Carney says the carmaker didn't mean to offend anyone. But . . .
RYNDEE CARNEY: Advertising during the Super Bowl brings instant criticism both positive and negative. We have no plans to change the spot.

BOB GABBIA: We hope they'd reconsider.

Bob Gabbia is president of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. He says the ad was, at the least, insensitive. But, with 93 million people watching, it could even be dangerous.

GABBIA: People who are vulnerable can be swayed by these kind of messages.

And that's the point. Advertisers will pay $2.5 million for 30 seconds with an audience that large. That's also why their ads can produce such an outcry.

It's not just GM. Anheuser-Busch had to apologize for a violent streak to its ads, and Snickers had to pull a whole campaign built around a commercial, deemed homophobic, where two men touch lips while eating the same candy bar.

SNICKERS AD: I think we accidentally kissed. Quick, do something manly.

Neil Giuliano is president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. He says the Snickers ad agency called them in early January and asked them to review the ads. He never received them. The ensuing storm has brought an extra week of publicity for the ads, though it hasn't all been good.

In Los Angeles, I'm Pat Loeb for Marketplace.

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