Shreyas Kulkarni

Snickers Spain pulls down advert after allegations of homophobia 

The ad shows an effeminate man turning into a bearded man, with a deep voice, after a bite of Snickers.

Leading chocolate brand Snickers has pulled down a television advertisement in Spain after it faced sharp criticism and allegations of homophobia.

In the video, Spanish influencer Aless Gibaja orders, as per CNN, "a sexy orange juice with vitamins A, B and C: hugs, kisses and caresses."

Gibaja’s friend shares a look with the waiter, who then serves Gibaja a Snickers ice cream bar. After a bite, Gibaja is transformed into a bearded man, with a deep voice.

Gibaja’s friend then asks him if he feels better. Gibaja replies in the affirmative and then the Sinckers tagline plays: You’re not you when you’re hungry.

Snickers has used this catchphrase to juxtapose genders or personality traits to get the point across. For instance, in the ad above, we are made to believe that a guy playing American football is not bringing his A-game because he is hungry. So, he’s playing like actress Betty White, a la, “You’re not you when you’re hungry.”

The Betty White spot was for the Super Bowl in 2010. It was the first time we saw and heard the catchphrase coined by creative powerhouse BBDO New York.

Back home in India, we’ve seen a guy turn into Bollywood star Sonam Kapoor and display diva-like behaviour because he’s hungry and a bite of Snickers brings him back to his senses.

Several people criticised the Snickers Spain advert online for being homophobic. Irene Montero, Spain’s minister for equality, tweeted: “I wonder to whom it might seem like a good idea to use homophobia as a business strategy.”

“Our society is diverse and tolerant. Hopefully, those who have the power to make decisions about what we see and hear in commercials and TV shows will learn to be too.”

“It is shameful and regrettable that at this point, there are companies that continue to perpetuate stereotypes and promote #homofobia and the #plumofobia. If you need some training for next time, here we are #Snickers,” tweeted the National Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Transsexuals and Bisexuals, Spain’s main LGBT organisation.

Snickers Spain deleted the video from its online channels and apologised. “At no time has it been intended to stigmatise or offend any person or group. In this specific campaign, the aim was to convey, in a friendly and casual way, that hunger can change your character.”

The BBC reported that Gibaja responded to the controversy in an Instagram story, apologising "a million times over if someone was offended."

"Babes, I am in shock with everything that is happening ... I have not spoken yet because I did not have the strength to do so after seeing so many messages against me. I want to make it clear that I would never ever harm anyone. My flag has always been, is and will be respect, equality and tolerance."

Questions have also been raised about the ad’s timing. Protests had erupted across Spain last month (in July) after a gay man was allegedly beaten to death.