Poll: Men, Do You Find This Ad Insulting?

Nicole Johnson finds the current advertising strategy of reducing men to infantile, irresponsible brutes insulting. What do you think?

Recently, my husband and I were channel surfing through a few nightly news programs and we stumbled upon this Verizon Wireless ad:

I’m tired of advertising agencies and Hollywood executives making the conscious decision to consistently portray men as irresponsible, idiotic, infantile, etc. I love a good joke and I love satirical comedies; however, the flagrant belittling of men and fathers (on a continual basis) is bothersome.

To every executive attempting to sell your products to men, I would like to offer you some marketing advice: please design a new advertising strategy; your current template is insulting and ineffective.

As a woman, I know what I find extremely insulting. Men, I’m curious, what do you think of this Verizon Wireless ad? Do you appreciate Verizon’s sense of humor? Do you find it degrading to men?

Photo: AP

About Nicole Johnson

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  1. VolitionSpark says:

    I DO meet men who are very irresponsible. However, most men are not. The stupid and irresponsible ones need to be called out, but men as a whole should not be made fun of according to their supposed stupidity and irresponsibility.

    Now making fun of the lack of morals that many men have is another story….but no, most men aren’t stupid.

  2. VolitionSpark says:

    I keep hearing this kind of thing more and more and it is a good thing. I think women are oppressed in many ways, though not as much as before or in some other countries. However, yes, most men on TV, whether in ads or on shows, are stupid beyond belief.

  3. Toungue n cheek people!

    • David, of course the commercial was intended to be humorous. I don’t think that anyone has suggested otherwise. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t also be offensive. Just think of the various ethnic jokes, blonde jokes, etc, that you have heard. Heck, I even remember a time when “dead baby” jokes were popular. All said in humor, and many still offensive, just the same.

  4. The only insult I found was that Verizon could not come up with their own idea! This commercial is a rip-off of a Saturday Night Live skit for “Bad Idea Jeans” from back in the 90’s
    The skit was funny then with the master Phil Hartman but lost its luster being re-tooled for a cell phone commercial. It was a swing and a miss for comedy but not offensive because I knew where it came from.

  5. MaMu1977 says:

    You can’t get offended if you don’t watch TV at all…
    As of 19/3/2011, my weekly average hours spent watching TV is under 10.
    I watch MNRaw, the new episode of Chopped, SNL, Shark Tank and the random Knicks game. Nothing else.
    If the TV executives relied on my viewing over 20 hours/week to be profitable, they’d starve.

  6. Mark Neil says:

    Largely what I find offensive about this particular commercial is that it is coming from Verizon, which has a history of promoting negative depictions of men. It’s easy for people to dismiss it as “it’s just humour”, but given Verizon’s recent Domestic Violence campaign “monster”, amongst other adds, it’s hard to see anything coming from them regarding men as anything more than their opinion of men. It seems they are incapable of respecting men, and this is just another example of their attack on men, rather than an attempt at humour.

    As others have mentioned, the content itself, on it’s own, not that bad. A lot of men are able to laugh at themselves quite well. It’s the constant barrage, and the utter lack of the opposite being shown (be that opposite of gender, IE showing women being irresponsible and dumb, or the opposite in mentality IE with men being intelligent and capable.)

  7. I don’t know, it’s kind of lame and stupid. I guess you could say yes, but honestly, I think I’m becoming desenceatised to men being protrayed as knuckle dragging , basically incompetent morons on TV and in movies . Now, if someone were to mane a commerical or gasp.. TV show that actually showed a man to be masculine AND a person of good character and intelligent to boot! Now that would truly stand out!

  8. I don’t find this commercial offensive. That doesn’t mean this ad is funny or clever. I’ll probably forget this ever existed once it stops being aired.

    I’m more irritated by Jack-in-the-Box’s commercial about marrying bacon. It expands upon the tired “if you love it so much, why don’t you marry” joke that even children find groan inducing. In a rush to deliver the punchline, it stumbles over the critical moment when the son tells the mother he is not marrying a woman, but marrying bacon. Instead of diffusing this controversial situation with insight, it does a lazy job of mocking the stress of “coming out” to a parent.

    I don’t prescribe to the notion that certain topics are never funny. Anything can be funny if you avoid taking the easy way out and address topics with thought and care.

  9. Jamie Reidy says:

    Dudes need to lighten up.

    • Why the need to lighten up?

    • Mark Neil says:

      Show me where you tell all those feminists whinging about the “objectification of women on TV” to “lighten up” and your point may actually be worth more than the double standard shaming tactics gender feminists are known for.

      • You are sensitive. Why did you have to bring women into this. You have to play fair.

        • Mark Neil says:

          I’m not entirely sure if that was intended as a sarcastic mocking of other types of standard shaming tactics and dismissals, or if you’re serious?

  10. wellokaythen says:

    I didn’t find it insulting, I found it funny. I even rewound it with the DVR and showed it to my wife. If I think about it more deeply, I can see how it can be insulting to men. The idiots in the commercial all appear to be male, so there could be an attempt to portray men a certain way.

    A larger question, though, is how this compares to the way that modern advertising approaches consumers in general. I’m not sure this is especially insulting to the audience any more than the millions of ways that advertisers insult our intelligence every day. I’m thinking of the tire commercial (and I think a Volvo ad as well) that features a laughing, smiling (white) baby in a car tire and essentially asks you whether you want your family to be safe or not. Or the linoleum/kitchen cleaner ad that has a little golden lab puppy running around the kitchen floor. Please.

    Or the ad for wrinkle cream that helps fight wrinkles that are so small you can’t even see them. (Umm, if no one can see them, then….)

    • Agreed. I can see how it happens- with a need to make you want to buy something twinned with a very short time frame in which to pitch, oversimplifications, caricatures, stereotypes and scaremongering is bound to happen. Still, Mitchell & Webb did an interesting sketch on gender in advertising which pretty much hits the nail on the head.

  11. I find it more insulting that the Bad Idea commercial was directly ripped off from the SNL sketch for Bad Idea Jeans.
    Men, as evidenced from the guy above who just thinks these ads are just about idiots, are pretty good at taking things in stride/ not specifically reading into things to take offense to them. However, the problem with idiots is that they love when life imitates art and this could get some dipshits doing some dipshit shit.
    Finally, most ads like this are very loosely written. They have a framework and let the actors, usually comedic actors, expound on it. When you have 15 seconds to make something funny, going dumb is a quick way to get a cheap, cheap laugh.

  12. Nicole, you are definitely going down the right line as commercials for men are routinely dumbed down to a point where men don’t seem to have the same intelligence as premies. However, I think this one does a decent job of towing the line because it feels like the men aren’t even taking themselves seriously as they say it. In a sense, they know they’re saying something dumb. On the other hand, the commercials where men do/say something dumb because they believe it (a specialty of beer advertising and commercials geared to raising kids) does offend for lack of showing the true depth and intelligence of men. Having been in a position of speaking to the people who develop these ads in the past, I have some insight in what “works” and the process to developing commercials like this. That frustration actually led me to write an opinion a while back as well.


  13. Maybe not outright insulting however I do find it bothersome. But there is something that bothers me a bit more.

    From the subheadline:
    …the current advertising strategy of reducing men to infantile, irresponsible brutes…
    Current? This type of stuff has been going on for quite a while. Verizon has been making ads based around the inept man for the last several years.


  14. This didn’t seem to be about ‘men’ at all. This was about idiots. The fact it happened to be guys is incidental, and I thought it was pretty funny.

    • I partially agree with you, Mike. Most of the ads that contain stupid men do not explicitly state that ALL men are stupid. The trouble is, this is part of a very long trend, where the ONLY people who are portrayed as idiots are men. So, taken in isolation, this commercial is not so bad. I could certainly give you worse examples. But, as part of that larger trend, it is troubling.

      • Mark Neil says:

        “The trouble is, this is part of a very long trend, where the ONLY people who are portrayed as idiots are men.”

        Not just that, but that the only way men seem to ever be portrayed are as idiots or abusers, except in shows directly targeting men, in which case they are capable, but a woman partner is always “more” capable.

  15. I happened to see this commercial for the first time last night and laughed. I didn’t find it remotely insulting, because the punchline was “Even these idiots can tell our service is better,” not “Even men – who we all know are idiots – can tell our service is better.”

  16. I didn’t find it terribly insulting, but yes it is part of the continued trend that DOES drive me nuts. On commercials, in many TV programs, men are consistently idiots who would probably die if not for their omniscient wife. Men are bumbling idiots. Only women have an ounce of logic and/or good sense. It’s really irritating. Especially for me. I’m a single parent (adopted my child so no one else involved) and am currently traveling around the world with my now 10-year-old. We’ve been on the road for 1 year so far. I’ve seen it at his school before we left as well. Often teachers reduced their expectations because no mom was involved, or they would send me really stupid notes about clothing or other things because,again, no mom was involved and dads are idiots.

    I can’t help but wonder what would happen if the shoe was on the other foot and women were portrayed the way men are now. I’m quite sure there would be outrage.

  17. I don’t find this terribly insulting, myself.

    I look at it as “shit you don’t really hear”, which clearly doesn’t make it sound like men actually think these ways. It seems to play on the fact that it would be shocking or utterly comical for men to make stupid decisions, and remains fairly independent from playing on assumptions about men.

    In short, this could have been women and the context wouldn’t have really changed.

    On the other hand, if this were business executives or government officials, then it would be insulting to them.

    • There are other commercials I find insulting, like the pigs at the bar commercial.

      Another trope commonly used that irritates me is the pathetic virgin assumption. That is, you can make any male character pathetic if you make it clear he’s a virgin. He isn’t “skilled enough” or “lovable enough” to have “earned the company of a woman.” Which is, of course, the damaging flipside of the slut/stud double standard.

    • Web, I agree. This is stuff that’s not heard by men. It mostly just rolls off.

      But it’s not targeted to us anyway. We’re not the intended audience.

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