September 27, 2007 -- Since last week, Cadbury Schweppes Canada has been running "naughty nurse" television ads for Dentyne Ice chewing gum. The ads show female nurses being lured into bed with male patients the instant the men pop the product into their mouths. The tag line: "Get Fresh." But the ads are not really so fresh. They use naughty nurse imagery to sell products to young men--a cliché in itself. And they suggest that use of the products by hospital patients will instantly produce an erotic reaction from the always available bedside nurse, an idea that has recently been used to sell TAG Body Spray, and in an amazingly direct ad for a brand of Russian vodka. It is especially unfortunate that Cadbury Schweppes Canada is again exploiting the naughty nurse image, since we and other nurses clearly explained to the company the problems with that image following its use in a 2005 Mott's Clamato commercial. We urge Cadbury Schweppes to consider whether it really needs its female fantasy playthings to be nurses, which reinforces an enduring stereotype of workplace sexual availability that contributes to the global nursing crisis. Despite our extensive discussions with company executives over the last week, the company so far refused to alter its plans to run the Dentyne Ice ad for many more weeks. Please help us persuade Cadbury Schweppes to change course.
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The 30-second spot shows two male patients in beds in a semi-private hospital room. One is a young hottie with a long leg cast, the other an overweight elderly gentleman. Hottie grins mischievously and presses call the button. Then he hobbles to a rolling table across the room, picks up a package of Dentyne Ice, puts one in his mouth, and hobbles back to bed, groaning.
An attractive young female nurse enters, wearing a short-sleeved white nursing dress. We can't see the dress length, but the neckline is unzipped to reveal some cleavage. The nurse asks, casually: "Did you call?" The patient responds smugly, knowing he's about to score: "Hi...I'm Derek." The nurse sits on his bed and moves very close, staring at him with obvious erotic intent: "Tanya...hi." The two are about to kiss when they remember the other patient and look over. The elderly man looks at them expectantly. The nurse quickly draws the blue curtain to separate the two halves of the room.
So the elderly man puts a piece of Dentyne Ice in his mouth. Instantly a second female nurse of roughly his age and comparable physical attributes appears. She smiles and says "Hi!" and she seems about to sit on his bed. The spot cuts to the closing image of the product package, with the tag line delivered by a young woman in voice over: "Dentyne...Get Fresh."
Cadbury Schweppes is not getting fresh with nurses in a vacuum. For decades, the stereotype that nurses are frivolous, sexually available females has plagued the profession. We understand that this ad is not a documentary. But that will not stop it from reinforcing the commonly held view that nurses are not serious professionals. Indeed, the ad will no doubt be defended as just a "joke," but naughty nurse imagery constantly links nursing with this joke, as if nurses were no more than a standard comic prop. The point of advertising is to affect the way viewers act, and the effects are not limited to the company's conscious goal of increasing profits. It would be no defense to harmful stereotyping in other contexts to claim that those responsible were just trying to achieve some other worthy goal, like selling breath-freshening products to young males. Naughty nurse imagery may serve that goal. But it also discourages practicing and potential nurses, and undermines their ability to convince decision-makers to allocate adequate resources to nursing.
The only thing that's arguably "fresh" about the ad is the elderly angle. It is of course rare to see a naughty nurse in this demographic. However, we find it no more helpful to the profession, and you could argue that it's even worse, as it suggests that providing workplace sexual services is not something nurses ever move beyond.
The Cadbury Schweppes Marketing Code of Practice states that the company will "capitalise on the potential of advertising to influence behaviour by developing advertising that supports positive and beneficial social behaviour including ... friendship, kindness, justice, honesty, generosity and respect of others." The naughty nurse ads described above are plainly contrary to these corporate goals.
We urge Cadbury Schweppes to consider the negative effects of this ad and cease reinforcing stereotypes that not only are far from fresh, but also contribute to the deadly nursing shortage.
Note: In addition to Cadbury and Schweppes products, the company also sells Snapple, Dr Pepper, 7 UP, A&W Root Beer, Country Time, Hawaiian Punch, Mott's, Clamato, Dentyne, Trident, Bubblicious, Certs, Chiclets, HALLS, Sour Patch, and Swedish Fish, among others.