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Least Creative Thing Of The Day: Why Do So Many “Ghostbusters” Tie-In Ads Star Men?

The new Ghostbusters stars four women–but if you only saw ads from Progressive, Papa John’s, and the NBA, you might’ve missed that.

Least Creative Thing Of The Day: Why Do So Many “Ghostbusters” Tie-In Ads Star Men?

Paul Feig’s forthcoming reboot of Ghostbusters has not been without controversy. (And not just because of the menus it’s inspiring in Japan.) Since the new film was announced–with an all-female cast–dudes on the Internet have thrown tantrums about how it’s ruining their childhoods, it’s feminism run amok, it’s an attempt by the PC Police and the Social Justice Warriors to brainwash America into believing only women can bust ghosts, etc.

But if your primary exposure to the new Ghostbusters is through the tie-in ads from brands including Progressive, Papa John’s, and the NBA, you might be very confused what the fuss is all about–because in all of those ads, the person strapping a proton pack to their back and donning a khaki jumpsuit to prove they ain’t afraid of no ghosts is yet another dude–and not a lady like Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, or Kate McKinnon.

In Progressive’s spot, the Ghostbuster is rando guy who drives the Ecto-1 to encounter a spooky version of Flo, the company’s mascot; in the Papa John’s ad, Papa John himself dons the proton pack (they didn’t even bring in Peyton Manning!); and in the NBA ad, it’s Kobe Bryant wearing the uniform.

All of this is strange, given that the film stars four women. Given the makeup of the league, it might have been a challenge for the NBA to find an appropriate lady to put in their promo (although, boom, Riley Curry, you’re welcome), but there are no shortage of appropriate women in the pizza-slinging business who could have joined Papa John in a proton pack (he likes to hang out with Peyton Manning, J.J. Watt, and Joe Montana, so maybe a female athlete?). Progressive, meanwhile, has had a woman as its spokesperson for eight years of an extremely successful campaign–it’s downright weird that it didn’t occur to them to just put Flo in a jumpsuit and build the ad around her.

It’s hard to say if this is because the online backlash to the new Ghostbusters has made putting a woman in the Ghostbusting role something of a political statement–which brands like Papa John’s and Progressive would rather not be involved in–or if, even though this movie is coming soon and has received a serious media blitz, the notion that its advertising partners have of a “Ghostbuster” is still that of a guy. Either way, there’s a lot more busting that needs to be done.

About the author

Dan Solomon lives in Austin with his wife and his dog. He's written about music for MTV and Spin, sports for Sports Illustrated, and pop culture for Vulture and the AV Club.