The ABC’s of the Absolutely Baffling Campaign

Dr. Pepper’s marketing team really went over the top on their new Dr. Pepper 10 advertising campaign. Even though the company already has a diet soda (Diet Dr. Pepper), they decided to release a diet soda that would appeal towards men. Their research, as well as perceptions made by most (if not all) soda companies, indicated that men tended not to drink diet sodas because they are not deemed “manly” – whatever that means. They then introduced their new Dr. Pepper 10 and incorporated a campaign to force its “manly” appeal down audiences throats. They wanted to make sure that the message was very clear that this new diet soda is so bold and intense that “it’s not for women.” Period.

The commercial shows a ‘macho’ man in an action-packed scene – shooting laser guns & punching snakes. Throughout the commercial, the main character comments that women probably won’t be enjoying the commercial since it’s action based, just like the new Dr. Pepper 10. It has “ten manly calories” and wrapped in a “gunmetal gray” can that uses silver bullet holes in place of the standard bubbles found on the outside of the cans.

The campaign also incorporates a men-only Facebook page, where males users can view videos and play games that go along with the “manly” theme. One game in particular, involves shooting all the “girlie stuff” within a 23-second time limit.

When this campaign launched, it was immediately met with outcries of promoting sexism. On one hand, there is the most obvious example of sexism in the campaign, as it tells audiences in a straight-forward manner that the product is NOT FOR WOMEN. I can understand the motives of their campaign, I really can. Dr. Pepper wants to target the male demographic into drinking their diet soda; they also believe that society as a universal perception of diet sodas being somewhat “feminine,” because women are the ones who are more conscientious about their weight and calorie intake. However, the main issue is that Dr. Pepper is openly excluding over half of the American population through this campaign and resorts to using gender stereotypes to promote distinction between the targeted consumer and women.

Herein lies the greatest role sexism plays in the campaign – the reinforcement of gender roles and stereotypes. From the commercial, it is clear that Dr. Pepper is playing on the presupposed assumption that all women don’t enjoy action-based films and only enjoy romantic comedies and “lady drinks.” By the same token, women aren’t the only ones being subjected to these gender stereotypes. Men have openly expressed their distain for this campaign through the promotion of this overly-macho man and the need to disassociate themselves from any activity that might question their masculinity.

James Trebilcock, executive vice president of marketing for Dr. Pepper, insists that “women get the joke. ‘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.” Sure people are talking about this campaign, but not in the way Trebilcock may have anticipated.

For those who are still questioning the validity of the sexist claims being made against this campaign, or believe that these allegations are being exaggerated, consider this: what if instead the tagline read “it’s not for African-Americans”? Certainly the media would be jumping all over such an audacious statement and the company would most likely be forced to pull the campaign for its racist message.

So why, then, should this sexist campaign still be allowed to run when it is equally discriminating towards our society?


5 thoughts on “The ABC’s of the Absolutely Baffling Campaign

  1. This is the first time I have seen this advertisement. I never thought before that Dr Pepper was only a girls drink. To classify a drink as being only for men is ridiculous and it shows that there is still sexism in the advertisement world.

  2. I am completely baffled by this advertising campaign! I had heard about the sexist basis of the Dr. Pepper campaign for its new diet soda product, but can’t believe the outright sexism and discrimination towards women visually and verbally. To title promotional tactics with “Not for Women” is going right back to the ideals of women in the vintage advertisements you posted. This is a very important subject to address in a society that should be evolving from the blatant sexist remarks shown in your older examples… Great work!

  3. Sexism in advertising is such a fine line. Where does a specific message to a specific audience cross the line between appropriate and too much. With ads from the often refered to Axe Commercials and the Dove controversy, and the new Stella Artois commercials, when is targeting a specific demographic too specific? I certainly don’t know, and that’s why I love how your blog is taking a stance on a prominent issue.

  4. I think what is also important to note is that this perpetuates this ultra-macho-all-American masculinity as THE ONLY way to be an accepted male in US society. While yes, of course this is a campaign that excludes women, it also re-enforces what society deems as acceptable masculinity – aggressive, violent and obsessed with this undefinable “manliness”. Boys who see this and don’t fit into this small category of masculinity are also excluded and made to seem ‘weird’ or unfit as a male in some capacity. It’s just wrong all around.

  5. Sarah, I agree. Not only does this make boys feel like they have to be a certain way to be normal, alienating them, it completely excludes women. There is a huge difference between targeting an audience and excluding every audience BUT your target, especially if the excluded audience is offended. Who green-lighted this!? I can’t believe this plan passed from conception and into use without some exec. stopping it…

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