Bob Garfield’s Open Letter to Omnicom President-CEO John Wren: Stop the Homophobia

By Matt Van Hoven 

Oddly enough, Bob Garfield’s letter begins, “Dear John.” That seemed funny to me since the letter’s subject is homophobia and Garfield basically riffs on OMD President John Wren’s inadequacies, sans the “it’s not you, it’s me.”

Garfield brings to light three campaign pieces (possibly produced below Wren’s radar) that carry implicitly homophobic messages.

“…From BBDO, Detroit, came the spot for the macho subcompact Dodge Caliber. It featured a burly tough guy snorting the words ‘silly little fairy at a Tinkerbell-like pixie, only to be magic-wanded into a mincing, sweater-draped girly man…”

More after the jump.

“…From TBWA, New York, there was the Snickers Super Bowl ad: two auto mechanics, chewing on opposite ends of a candy bar till meeting in an accidental kiss. The incident struck them as so repulsively gay they commenced trying to cleanse themselves via a chest-hair-ripping display of manliness. The accompanying website offered alternate endings, such as one guy attacking the other with a wrench.”

And finally:

“…From AMV BBDO, London, another Snickers spot, in which a butt-wiggling race walker is just too effeminate for Mr. T’s liking. The snarling scourge of all things sissified chases after the guy in a pickup. ‘You a disgrace to the man race!’ he bellows. ‘It’s time to run like a real man!’ &#151 whereupon the terrorized wimp is mowed down with a candy-spewing Gatling gun and admonished to ‘Get some nuts!'”

An author and gay friend of mine made a good point about homophobia in America. America, he said, is afraid of losing its masculinity, its strength, its definition of the true man. Masculinity is perceived to be a big part of what helped us through our toughest times, like the Great Depression and World War II &#151 events that we look back on with pride (of course, strong women were equally important in both cases: “We Can Do It”). But we’re no less masculine now than we were before, he said, we’re just aware of what it means not to be. The truth is, it was our ability to work together that got us through those times.

You can decide if you agree with that, but Garfield admonishes OMD’s seemingly hypocritical work. It does exactly the opposite of what Wren pledged the company should do.

From Wren: “As a leader in the communications industry, Omnicom Group is committed to ensuring that we use our position to promote socially responsible policies and practices and that we make positive contributions to society across all of our operations.”

From Garfield: “Is that so? My guess is that the parents of Matthew Shepard, the Wyoming college student beaten to death for being too effeminate to suit his killers, would take a different view. Because your commercial is just a cartoonish recapitulation of their son’s brutal murder.”

Full AdAge story here.