September 2005 -- A new TAG Body Spray television commercial features an attractive, provocatively dressed "nurse" who develops "highly contagious lusty-nurse fever" and climbs into bed with the stunned male patient wearing the product. The ad reinforces the nurse-as-sex-maniac image that continues to contribute to the devaluation of nursing at a time of critical shortage. TAG Body Spray is made by The Gillette Company, the Fortune 500 company that also sells Oral B, Duracell, Braun, Venus, Mach 3, and Right Guard products. We urge everyone to ask Gillette to pull the ad now and make amends to nurses.
In the 15-second-ad, from the perspective of a male hospital inpatient, we see a young female "nurse" enter the patient's room. She is very attractive, and is dressed in a short white dress with high heels. The "nurse" immediately approaches the bed and begins to slide her hand up the inside of the patient's leg. As she does so, she starts her nursing assessment by saying "Mmmm! Show me where it hurts!" And then she leans down as if to kiss the patient. At this point a large black box obscures the center of the screen, and a mock-serious announcer reads the text that appears in this box:
As the announcer is speaking, we can see around the box that the "nurse" has climbed onto the patient's bed. Her mostly exposed legs dangle off the sides, and she leans into the patient. The salient aspects of the patient's condition cause her to observe: "uuunnhh!" Meanwhile, the announcer wraps things up: "Introducing TAG Body Spray for guys. Consider yourself warned." The ad is the latest in a series of spots for this product that highlight its supposed power to attract women. Evidently, it is so potent that a man must be careful even when greeting his date's mother at the door of her house, for example.
Even if the TAG Body Spray ad just showed a nurse who at first dressed and acted appropriately overcome by this product it would still be a problem. That is because nursing has a long history of being closely linked to female sexuality, to the fantasy idea that working nurses are sexually available to patients. Each new "naughty nurse" ad reinforces these long-standing stereotypes, which continue to discourage practicing and potential nurses, foster sexual violence in the workplace, and contribute to a general atmosphere of disrespect at a time when the profession is in crisis worldwide.
But this ad does not show anything approximating a real nurse. It shows someone who came to work--presumably at a time before she fell under the awesome power of TAG Body Spray--wearing a short white dress and high heels in which no real nurse could work. And the ad script does not advise guys to be careful about wearing the product in any setting where they may have close contact with females who are not their mates. It warns them of "highly contagious lusty-nurse fever," as if that was a common ailment that the product just happens to exacerbate. Those nurses are a crazy, lusty bunch to begin with, and this stuff is all you need to really set them off. And given how contagious the "fever" is, we assume this nurse's ultra-hot colleagues will be shooting into the room any minute for further assessments and interventions.
Ads like this must stop. Desexualizing the nursing image is a key part of building the strength the nursing profession needs to overcome the current shortage, which is taking lives worldwide, and to meet the challenges of 21st Century health care. At ground level, the devaluation of nursing translates into an underpowered profession that may not be strong enough to save your life when you need it to do so. The "naughty nurse" isn't going to catch deadly medication errors, intervene when a patient is about to crash, or teach a patient to survive with a life-threatening condition. Yes, the ad is "just a joke," but like other "jokes" that express and reinforce contempt for disempowered groups, it has a real world effect on how people think.
How might TAG do an ad in this setting that would not offend nurses? Here's one idea from supporter Mark Martel, an ad executive and friend of a nurse who suggests:
Try turning your spot around. Male nurse (in modern scrubs) trying to save a life, only he forgot and wore his TAG Body Spray and lusty female patients/visitors keep interfering with his life-saving. Patients are dropping like flies. Nasty looks from other a mix of other nurses, techs, etc. Next morning he pauses at the medicine cabinet, flashes back to the bad ER experience, and sets his TAG aside with his evening party clothes. TAGline: Use only as directed.
We obviously need more ad executives like Mr. Martel working at Gillette.
We urge supporters to ask Gillette to pull this ad immediately, to apologize to nurses, and to explain how it will make amends for the damage done.