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An Open Letter to James R. Trebilcock and the Dr. Pepper Ten Marketing Team - The LAMP

An Open Letter to James R. Trebilcock and the Dr. Pepper Ten Marketing Team

By October 13, 2011 News 5 Comments

***UPDATE – Check out the LAMPlatoon’s official response to the first Dr Pepper Ten commercial – made only for men – and send us your own broken version of the ad! You can also sign the petition asking Dr. Pepper and James Trebilcock to end the campaign. ***

Dear James R. Trebilcock,

The other day I read Salon’s article about your new Dr Pepper Ten Campaign. After investigating your Facebook app and watching your commercial, I have a few concerns that you need to hear.

Screenshot from Dr. Pepper Ten Facebook app

I know you’ve expected some sort of backlash from women. (“Oh those Feminists, getting their panties all up in a bunch.”) Let’s be honest: The campaign is overtly sexist, homogenizing women’s identities into the most stereotypical gender role possible and actively discriminating against it. There’s no denying this. According to Salon, you’ve said that you’re “not worried that [women will] be offended by the campaign. The drink and marketing were tested in six different markets across the country before being rolled out nationally, and women weren’t offended.” This is ridiculous. Women of all identities have long suffered from male-supremacy and this is yet another ignorant display of douchebaggery which essentializes women into a pretty little package set aside from (and below) men. This is offensive.

But having worked for years as a caregiver of mainly young boys, I’m especially interested in how messages of shaming – like that which your advertisements condone – affects our larger society. Judging from your ad campaign, it seems you have forgotten that there’s an increased suicide rate for LGBTQ teens, especially young boys. It’s rooted in bullying that these kids endure both in their community and on the Internet, and it is most often enforced through shaming. The most recent suicide was Jamey Rodemeyer, a 14-year-old boy in Western NY who was shamed at school and on the Internet. After his death, Jamey’s mother spoke out: “He hung around with the girls a lot, so then the teasing started happening like ‘Oh you’re such a girl or you’re gay’ or whatever and that bothered him for many years.” Similarly, 15-year-old Justin Aaberg committed suicide in May 2010 after he “suffered sexual and gender-based harassment by his peers, including harassment based on his nonconformity to gender stereotypes.” In both your commercial and your Facebook app, I read the following phrases: “What, are you a woman?” “Lose your skirt and step your game up,” “You’ve got 23 seconds to take out all the girly stuff,” “If it’s girly, shoot it” and “This shooting gallery is no place for a woman like you.” These statements are eerily similar to those which I imagined were used to oppress Jamey, Justin, and boys all over the country.

According to Salon, your ad for Dr Pepper Ten “will air on all major networks, FX and ESPN during college football games.” A lot of young people, just like those who shamed Jamey and Justin, watch these networks and interact daily with Facebook where they learn phrases that they apply both at school and on the Internet. After his son’s suicide, Jamey’s father said in an interview, “To the kids who are bullying they have to realize that words are very powerful and what you think is just fun and games isn’t to some people, and you are destroying a lot of lives.” This is exactly what your advertising campaign is doing – turning the shaming of boys and men into “fun and games.” Words are very powerful, especially to young children. Since you’ve had two boys yourself, Mr. Trebilcock, I would hope this would be a concern of yours.

You’re fostering a culture of douchebags – the aggressive, homophobic, anti-woman, hyper-masculine man from whom I can confidently say much of my daily street harassment comes. I’m really tired of this model of a man and I would hope that, as a father of two sons, you wouldn’t want to have a hand in reinforcing it, Mr. Trebilcock. Whether or not your intention is to create shock-value in your advertisements, I refuse to pardon the implications of your messages especially for children who consume them. They re-enact these messages in their daily lives not only as young people, but as grown men.

Your notion that “women get the joke” shows me just how ignorant you are. Maybe you used to be the same hyper-masculine jerk in your target demographic, but I would hope that by your age that you’ve gotten a grip, or at least some social awareness that tells you that this type of advertising is idiotic and unintelligent. Your excuse for the joke is that, “‘Is this really for men or really for women?’ is a way to start the conversation that can spread and get people engaged in the product.” That literally doesn’t make any sense. You see, I don’t get the joke because there isn’t one.

In conclusion, I encourage you to contact The LAMP and schedule a personal Media Literacy class for you and the entire Dr. Pepper Ten marketing team. Clearly, you have a lot to learn.

Kind regards,
Emily Breitkopf

Emily Breitkopf is a contributing writer to The LAMPpost. You can read more of her work on her blog, Kids and Gender and follow her on Twitter @emilybreitkopf.