December 2006 -- After five months of effort, we have persuaded Colorado brewer Coors to stop using "naughty nurse" imagery in its "Coors Light Trauma Tour." We thank the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario, especially member Laurie Spooner, for important help in this effort. The Trauma Tour has been an ongoing marketing campaign of Coors Canada. It has included television and other advertising, sponsorship of extreme sports events, and events at clubs and bars. The nursing component has featured models dressed in "naughty nurse" outfits, and some publicity has actually used the term "naughty nurse." It seems that the "nurses" would not only help the young male target demographic through risky sports, but also cause some "trauma" of their own by interacting closely with the guys. Because the "naughty nurse" stereotype reinforces the undervaluation and gender segregation of nursing, which in turn fuels the real "trauma" of the nursing shortage, we urged Coors to rethink the use of such "nurses" in its marketing. The company's U.S. headquarters was very responsive to our concerns, stressing that Coors had vowed to stop using such imagery after our successful campaign about its naughty nurse Zima commercial that aired in 2002. Ultimately, the company's Canadian division was persuaded to stop using naughty nurse imagery in the Trauma Tour.
Naughty nurses appear to have been a part of the Trauma Tour since at least 2004. The ad campaign includes Coors web sites. One, which seems to be a remnant from 2004, still offers "bros" a chance to download "naughty nurse" wallpaper. And there are Internet ads with the Coors nurses. One banner ad has the tag line "A serious dose of adrenaline...with a naughty nurse to make it all better....Get your fix at a Coors Light event near you."
At the sports and bar events, it seems that models dressed as "naughty nurses" would appear and hang out with the guys who showed up. Photos posted on the web [links, photos] show the "nurses" posing with each other and happy-looking dudes, sometimes with health care equipment in clinic-like settings. At the club parties, it seems that something similar happened, minus the extreme sports (unless you count drinking a lot of Coors as one). In fact, one Toronto "youth marketing consultant" even credited the Trauma Tour parties with inspiring the equally inane Virgin Mobile Canada product launch in March 2005. That one featured Richard Branson with some "naughty nurses" trying to help customers avoid "the catch" of rival phone services. But wait--is it possible these are real nurses just out to have some fun with extreme sports and beer enthusiasts? Those nurses are kind of skanky, right? Um, no. A number of aspiring model resumes on the Internet include entries such as "Coors Light Trauma Tour Naughty Nurse."
So what's wrong with all of this imagery? In general, linking sexual images so closely to the profession of nursing--to even the fantasy idea that working nurses are sexually available to patients--reinforces long-standing stereotypes. Those stereotypes continue to discourage practicing and potential nurses, encourage sexual violence in the workplace, and contribute to a general atmosphere of disrespect. 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. Desexualizing the nursing image is a key part of building the strength the profession needs to overcome the current shortage, which is a global public health crisis.
At the Trauma Tour events in particular, young men didn't just see sexually-oriented images of "nurses." They interacted closely with attractive, young, half-dressed models who presumably had no health expertise, but who did use nursing imagery and equipment as soft-core props. Of course the guys at these events presumably knew they were not really nurses. But this kind of intense personal interaction is likely to create a strong, lasting link in their minds between jiggly sex objects and nursing. Yeah, they might say, it's all just a big goof, and really we have the utmost respect for nursing. But all stereotypes have some effect. What would these Coors drinkers say if one of their "bros" mentioned he was thinking about a nursing career?
The Canadian division of Coors was reluctant to reconsider this use of naughty nurse imagery. The photo to the right is their adaptation of the photo at the top of the page. This division of the company asserted that changing the naughty nurse's uniform from white to red fixed the problem. However, we noted that a sexy woman dressed in revealing "health care" attire, holding health care paraphernalia and flanked by an IV bag, is very likely to be perceived as a naughty nurse, especially when our culture spends more time fantasizing about naughty nurses than women in any other profession. Coors headquarters helped us persuade Coors Canada that this was still a problem, and it removed the image.
Please send letters of thanks to Coors headquarters to:
Consumer Information Representative