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Hey Dr. Pepper, It’s Just Not Funny

By Kaye Toal

Dr. Pepper is coming out with a new drink, and if you’re anything like me, you already think it’s stupid. It’s called Dr. Pepper Ten. It has 10 calories. And it’s not for women. No, seriously, that’s the tagline! That’s what their brilliant marketing team — who are each probably getting paid enough to feed a third world country — came up with: Dr. Pepper Ten: Not For Women.

Jim Trebilcock, the appropriately surnamed executive vice president of marketing for Dr. Pepper, has said that he doesn’t think women will be offended. We’ll totally get the joke, he says. We’ll all laugh at the fact that the new can is gunmetal-colored and has bullets on it instead of bubbles, and the men-only Facebook page is a place for our fathers, brothers, boyfriends and sons to go play an app that shoots and answers trivia questions about hunting and fishing.

And if not, their ad campaign makes it clear what we should be doing instead of getting offended. One commercial shows a muscular man in the jungle battling snakes and bad guys and appearing to shoot lasers at each other.

“Hey ladies. Enjoying the film? Of course not. Because this is our movie and this is our soda,” a man says as he attempts to pour the soda into a glass during a bumpy ATV ride. “You can keep the romantic comedies and lady drinks. We’re good.”

Dr. Pepper clearly does not know shit about real, living women who have actual interests and develop hobbies that, yes, often include shooting lasers at one another. Seriously. We do that. We also dominate at roller derby, which is one of the most physically demanding sports in the world in my opinion. And a lot of us can do this cool thing called giving birth wherein our reproductive organs go through hell and back and then, in most cases, eventually return to pretty much what they originally looked like, so I’m getting quite tired of this “women are dainty and fragile and don’t like explosions or lasers” stuff. It’s just not true.

However, Trebilcock seems to think the company is being edgy and cool. “Women get the joke,” he said. “‘Is this really for men or really for women?’ is a way to start the conversation that can spread and get people engaged in the product.”

There’s a glaring flaw in this logic: anyone with his or her gender listed as “female” on Facebook can’t access the Dr. Pepper Ten application. They can, however, “like” the Facebook page. It encourages them to read the Ten Man’ments, which include such fabulously gender-satirical things like “thou shalt not OMG” and “thou shalt not make a man-gagement album” because you know, your lady totally forced you into marriage and you shouldn’t be proud of it at all! Haha, aren’t gender stereotypes fun, guys?! Guys?

There are people who will see this ad campaign and read this blog and think that we’re overreacting or that we somehow don’t get it. This is harmless, it’s just a joke. Don’t you have a sense of humor? Yes. I do. I have a fabulous sense of humor, thanks for asking! But I find things funny that are actually funny, not reinforcing social norms that are painful and constrictive for most of the population, whatever gender they may happen to be.

Telling boys and men that they shouldn’t drink regular diet drinks because they’re effeminate, but should instead drink “manly” things like Dr. Pepper Ten and Coke Zero and Pepsi Max, is telling them that there’s a right way to be male and it doesn’t involve anything feminine. That, in turn, tells them that female is less, female is bad, and female is worthy of ridicule. If men and boys are surrounded by ad campaigns that reinforce these ideas, don’t you think they’ll probably think women are less, and bad, and worthy of ridicule?

The unfortunate thing is that if this ad campaign recognized that – if it somehow acknowledged how dull and damaging it is and flipped that around again – it would be hilarious, progressive, socially-conscious marketing. But it’s not. It’s not clever or innovative enough to be satire. It’s not actually funny. It’s just sad. And we’re not buying it.

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10 Responses to “Hey Dr. Pepper, It’s Just Not Funny”

  1. Sharon Shirley says:

    Great Job Kaye! Proud of you for standing up and articulating so clearly why this campaign is so damaging to society. Thank you.

  2. Bailey says:

    Excellent piece, Kaye! This is spot on. I would have been in love with this ad if they’d managed to actually turn the blatant sexism on its head, but they didn’t. And to come back and claim that, “Haha, women think it’s funny!” while having a section of Facebook that is inaccessible to women (where men can shoot “girly” things) is so un-funny it’s like Dr Pepper became a parody of itself. One more business that won’t be getting my money!

  3. lizzie says:

    This is infuriating. What the HELL Dr. Pepper? Do you need to oppress women to sell your products? I hope their sales drop by half.

  4. The ‘Ten Man’ments’ don’t bother me. There are all sorts of ‘anti-men’ jokes that us women laugh at, but the anti-woman campaign for a product is pretty rude.

  5. I heard a commercial for this recently and was also annoyed. This post is
    well articulated, so I had to pass it on through Facebook. Thanks for a great write-up!

  6. Melissa says:

    Kaye, when I saw this ad on tv, I just…couldn’t believe it. I love how you articulate the core problem: it sends the message that “female is less, female is bad, and female is worthy of ridicule.” This blog entry is the best I’ve seen on the topic, and props to you for identifying one source of the idiocy: ” Jim Trebilcock, the appropriately surnamed executive vice president of marketing for Dr. Pepper.” I feel only ill, and ill-will, towards his idiotic brand after being exposed to this nasty, immature ad. When I heard the tag line, I literally felt like someone had reached out of the tv and slapped me in the face. Whoever wrote the ad, and whoever okay’d it, are all seriously out of touch. As well as vile and disgusting. What a horrendous reflection of the Snapple/Dr. Pepper brand. I feel sorry for everyone who works there, who has to be associated with this “campaign” of misogyny and stupidity.

  7. Bailey says:

    I made a video based in part on your post, Kaye:

  8. mel says:

    What could be really powerful here is if we ask our male friends and family members (who are pro gender equality) to comment on these marketing schemes. It’s powerful to have women protest the demoralization of women, but it’s even more powerful when men stand against it, too. Everyone is hurt by gender stereotypes and everyone has a stake in changing them.

  9. Kris says:

    I couldn’t believe how blatantly sexist this advertisement was! Not only was it offensive to women, but also to men who don’t conform to the stereotype. Bad marketing decisions here Dr. Pepper!

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