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.