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Let them drink clams

August 5, 2005 -- Global beverage maker Cadbury Schweppes has told the Center that it will make a limited effort to curtail the final two weeks of a Canadian television ad campaign for Mott's Clamato juice that features a naughty nurse image. The company released a statement today that assured nurses that it did not mean to disparage their profession. But the message seemed mainly intended to justify the ads through an explanation of the company's "fun and entertaining" marketing strategy, which has "one primary message: nothing is as spicy as Mott's Clamato." We're entertaining other slogans that would be equally relevant to the ad campaign, such as: "Nothing is as spicy as a deadly nursing shortage."

We have not seen the ad ourselves and Cadbury Schweppes has refused to share it with us, but we understand that the Clamato ads feature a young woman, dressed in a suggestive "nurse" uniform, ringing an apartment doorbell. A young man answers, they look at each other, and the young woman puts on a rubber glove. The spot ends with the young woman leaving, after the couple presumably got up to some totally "fun and entertaining" activity. We understand the idea was that these two were already well-acquainted, and that this was a "role playing" encounter, not a direct suggestion that nurses tend to show up at strangers' doors looking for naughty fun with gloves.

However, even if the ad suggested only that one couple was having erotic fun with the "naughty nurse" image, it's still a problem. Though their fun may have been private, the ad featuring it was certainly anything but. Such ads broadcast and endorse the sexually available female nurse stereotype. Nursing remains over 90% female today, and we are now in the midst of a critical global shortage that directly threatens lives. Would we object to this sort of "role playing" even if it was not broadcast to millions of people? We would. The Center wants everyone to have fun, but if that fun includes workplace-related fantasies, we urge everyone to consider the hundreds of options other than the naughty nurse.

In response to concerns of the Center and several nurses, Cadbury Schweppes promised to do what it could to curtail the final scheduled broadcasts of the ads, but it's not clear how much effect that will have. The company also sent us this message on August 5, 2005:

As a leading global beverage manufacturer, Cadbury Schweppes is committed to acting responsibly and within our usual high standards. The recent ads for Mott's Clamato are part of a campaign, consisting of two different ads with one primary message: nothing is as spicy as Mott's Clamato. These ads were developed to be fun and entertaining, and geared to young adults in their mid to late 20s. They are in no way meant to disparage any profession or to accurately depict any professional.

This is a start, but it falls well short of an apology, a promise not to place similar ads in the future, or a recognition of the serious nature of the issues involved here. The apparent excuse that the ads were meant to be fun and youth-oriented was obviously inadequate. The naughty nurse is always "fun," but that has not stopped her from reinforcing the pernicious idea that nurses are sexually available to patients and physicians in the workplace. Ads exist to influence the way people think; they don't stop working because they're "fun." And it's hard not to be put off by the blatant effort to push the product even in what should be a message addressing the concerns of a life-saving profession in the midst of a major crisis.

Spicy is one word for it.


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