Heinz's Mayo Madness

Heinz have come under heavy fire this month over their decision to withdraw their ‘gay kiss’ Deli Mayo ad.

At half a minute long, the ad is over before you know it. And as for the ‘gay kiss’, that tiny peck is hardly a full on, show-stopping Hollywood snog. In passion terms, it sits on a similar level to a dutiful kiss surrendered to your granny.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received 215 complaints about Heinz’s advert. Many complainants called it ‘offensive’, or expressed concern about having to explain to their children why two men were kissing.

More insightful commentators have pointed out that this advert really has very little to do with being gay. It is not depicting a same-sex relationship. It is saying that Heinz Deli Mayo is so great that it can turn anyone into an authentic New York deli sandwich maker. Hence the mum in the advert has been replaced with this Manhattan stereotype.

Any sensible parent could have spared themselves the ‘pain’ of having to reveal the terrible truth about homosexuality to their children by simply explaining that the mum had been replaced with a chef to show how good the mayonnaise is. No degree in Queer Theory necessary.

A series of concerned groups have subsequently waded into the debate. Stonewall called for a general boycott of all Heinz’s products. An online petition calling for the ad to be reinstated gathered 1300 signatures. The ASA received about 50 emails in support of the ad (they rarely receive any).

The leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, wrote a letter to Heinz criticising their actions. "The decision to withdraw it has not only offended many gay, lesbian, transgender - and straight - people, it also represents a backward step in attempts to combat homophobia in Britain today, not to mention a collective loss of humour," he said.

The ASA, speaking to GT, said that it was Heinz decision to pull the advert, and later announced that they would not investigate the ad. "The sight of two men kissing affectionately should not be considered offensive or controversial," said a spokesman.

To give a little perspective to the matter, the ASA told me that the record number of complaints they have received was for a KFC advert. The ad showed people working in a call centre, and singing with their mouths full. 1500 people complained about the ad’s ‘indecency’ and ‘promotion of poor table manners’.

I think this gives us an accurate picture of the sorts of people that choose to lodge complaints with the ASA.

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