Undressing Salad Dressing: How Sex Still Sells

Inside One Million Moms' beef with Kraft's beefcake ad—and what it means for brands that won't back down.

Marketing and branding these days is like swimming in shark-infested waters covered in blood; You can’t help but get bit.

As I noted in my previous posts regarding accusations of Mountain Dew being racist, Chipotle being anti-Boy Scout, and Abercrombie & Fitch being...well, anti-fat, controversy seems to be an unavoidable fact of life for most brands seeking to pump up their profile in the marketplace.

However, sometimes that controversy works in favor of the brand. As this AdWeek article details, Kraft had the audacity to publish a two-page spread (and yes, it is quite a spread) for their Zesty Italian salad dressing featuring a very hot guy with nothing on but a strategically placed corner of a picnic blanket. Yes, it was beyond zesty—it was über-zesty—and that was way too much zest for a certain advocacy group with the name of One Million Moms.

These seven-figure mothers called for a boycott of Kraft products on their website a couple of weeks ago, saying, "Christians will not be able to buy Kraft dressings or any of their products until they clean up they're advertising." Really? Have these people ever been to the beach? Because the hunk in the ad isn’t showing any more than a guy in a Speedo would on Miami Beach.

Then again, this particular organization takes prudish to a whole new level. They describe the ad as “a n*ked man lying on a picnic blanket with only a small portion of the blanket barely covering his g*vitals [asterisks theirs).”

Companies that are targeted by niche groups like this often respond with half-hearted apologies or even by yanking the campaign. Kraft, I’m happy to say, doubled-down on its zesty ways—and came back at the Million Moms with a simple, strong statement: "Our Kraft dressing's 'Let's Get Zesty' campaign is a playful and flirtatious way to reach our consumers. People have overwhelmingly said they're enjoying the campaign and having fun with it."

And it’s clear they ARE having fun with it—even with Kraft’s equally zesty TV commercial featuring yet another buff bro in a see-through apron. Here are a few user comments on this particular piece of meat:

“I don't even like salad but if he comes with it I will buy every container in existence. Every. Single. One.”

“Can I please be that apron?”

“And now all us girls understand how guys feel when their beer commercials come on.”

Using sex to sell has been a device utilized since the dawn of advertising in 1871, when cigarette brands discovered the power of the female form (you can see for yourself if you click here—which I wouldn’t advise if you’re a member of the One Million Moms)!.

This post isn’t meant to belittle anyone, but there is clearly a need for a brand to stand up to bullying from those who haven’t quite come to grips with the 21st century—or possibly even the 20th century—as of yet. And thankfully, that’s a trend which is in full swing.

For example, the last fight the One Million Moms picked was with J.C. Penney, because that merchant DARED to hire Ellen DeGeneres to star in a Christmas commercial last December—and that was a problem because the comedian is openly gay. The store chain refused to back down.

More recently, a brouhaha erupted because General Mills featured an interracial couple in an ad for their breakfast cereal, Cheerios. Cheerios again refused to pull the ad—and the brand was rewarded for its courage: Cheerios’ online branding shot up by 77% after public sentiment backed their position. The moral of the story? When a company takes the right stand, it boosts their brand and turns them into social media heroes.

And the best part? That stand can even be a sexy one.

[Sexy Salad: Nils Z via Shutterstock]

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12 Comments

  • Mjolnir Hammerschlag

    I agree with the Offended Moms. The in-your-face filth by the listed corporations might have brand recognition, but if it's like this household, recognized and not bought.

  • flagirl336

    I find it interesting that the author neglected to cite the results of the Million Moms protest of the Ellen Degeneres campaign for Penney's.

    Penney's sales and stock prices went into freefall, and they finally fired the CEO.

  • Mark

    The results of JCPs financial issues had nothing to do with a mental midget group and the results of one ad that offended their MORAL sensibilities (what happened to judge not lest ye be judged?) And no I don't like Ellen, cant stand her as a matter of fact, but would side with her over a bunch of narrow minded tell me how to live my life mental midgets like these. Nice try at attempting to claim victory though. So what was it they did to SEARS or KMART to cause them to have the same issues?

  • Mark

    I use Kraft products, I buy from JC Penneys, and I love Cheerios. A million Christian (Muslim and Jewish) moms? Jesus died for their moral stupidity.

  • Kathy Jean

    I applaud Kraft's resistance to benighted morality and self-righteousness.

  • Tony

    So you approve of women being portrayed in media, as only for their looks and ability to excite men? Approving of one, is consenting to the other.

  • Kenneth

    "This post isn't meant to belittle anyone.."

    Of course it is. That's the whole point of writing it.

  • Loretto Taylor

    Sorry, but I'm with the Mom's on this one, but for a different reason. I resent the sexual objectification of women in advertising, and if I expect that my gender should be treated as human beings and not objects, then I should also demand the same for men. Treating people as things is so pervasive in our culture, we don't even notice it anymore. People are not objects to be used, whether they're men or women.

  • Wow

    Humans are objects though. The goal of every species is to reproduce and survive, and thus sex has always been a huge part of every living species. Do you hate serving the only objective "purpose" that you have in this life?

  • flagirl336

    Some of us have a more well-rounded view of our purpose on earth.

    Sex is great, but in context.

    You might view yourself and others as purely sex objects, but lots of people think otherwise.