One story, the rejected ManCrunch ad, has gotten more complicated. While many in the media and blogosphere rushed to attack CBS for not taking the ad, there is now growing evidence that this was largely a manufactured controversy and that the ManCrunch promoters may have played on gay sympathies in order to garner attention.
Although the website has denied this was all a PR stunt, many who have analyzed the commercial and the company suggest that ManCrunch–which bills itself as a website for men on the “down low”–may have cynically used the LGBT press and mainstream media and blogosphere to get attention in order to drive up hits on their website.
Here’s what I wrote for a column at Mediaite.
When news of the rejected ad first surfaced, people quickly jumped on the anti-CBS bandwagon and somehow saw ManCrunch as the latest bottle thrown at the Stonewall rebellion. Amid the Focus on the Family ad controversy, CBS rejecting an ad featuring two guys “kissing” was an undeniable symbol of everything-that-is-wrong with how CBS has handled Super Bowl ads.
But is a company that wants to cater to men on the “down low” and produces an ad that features a “kiss” and set-up you’d expect on Spike TV or a Jackass movie really worthy of martyr status? Is it possible that the real homophobic villains in this annual morality play are ManCrunch and their cynical exploitation of the media, the gay community and those sympathetic towards gay people?
There are lessons to be learned from this experience. First, we should understand that the Super Bowl ad circus is, well, a circus. Most of the advertisers are there to gain attention for their products and are willing to manipulate the situation–including ginning up a manufactured controversy–in order to get attention.
Like the politician who issues a controversial ad so it will be played for free on the news, advertisers and organizations are willing to do the same thing. It’s true whether it is ManCrunch or PETA or Doritos.
Knowing that, the media and the blogosphere needs to be smarter before being lured into this game. If the networks deserve to be criticized for rejecting an ad for being homophobic, for instance, we owe it to readers and viewers to make sure that we have the whole story and that we aren’t just being played.