This week in douchebaggery I bring you ChapStick: a brand so big and so well-known that its name has become an accepted stand-in for almost any nourishing product you put on your lips. I have known about ChapStick since as long as I can remember, and I think of it as one of those products that does not have to really advertise. It is a part of our cultural vocabulary and already has a loyal consumer base that has been supporting it for generations. And though some may think our society’s obsession with lip balm has crossed over into the realm of addiction, I still consider some sort of lip balm as a part of my essential, daily, self-care routine.
So who knew that ChapStick’s recent ad campaign would actually increase its visibility but make it less desirable, turning many consumers away feeling disgusted and betrayed? The new advertisement, released last week, features a photograph of a thin, faceless woman with her ass stuck in the air (and in the viewer’s face) as she seemingly searches frantically for her lost ChapStick behind her couch. Below, the copy reads “Where do lost ChapSticks go? Be heard at facebook.com/chapstick.” Now let me start off by saying that I think that the tagline for this ad could have been a launchpad for a great campaign. ChapSticks are really easy to lose and do get lost all the time; it is part of the evil genius that keep us coming back for more. But the sexist visual component of the ad was obviously offensive to many consumers, myself included. Not only does the ad offensively use women’s bodies to sell a product it, also needlessly sexualizes a non-sexual product. It’s ChapStick for god’s sake! And now I have to think of this lady’s ass every time I rub it on my lips? What? I didn’t want that!
Luckily, in the age of social media, consumers were able to voice their complaints directly to the company via the ChapStick Facebook page, where comments ranged from the gleefully cooperative (“Coconut Shimmer is my favorite!”) to the explicitly outraged (“Take your chauvinist pig new consumers and say goodbye to all the strong women who coincidental make up 90% of consumers world wide!!!!”). So great, a dialogue has been started and brought to ChapStick’s attention. Now they can take into account the feelings of their consumer base and move forward in a productive way, right?
Wrong. Instead, the faceless team behind the page decided to be complete douches about the whole situation and deleted any comments that were critical of the ad’s sexism, though they allowed comments like “Cherry chapstick rocks!” and “lips so shine” to remain. “Be Heard at Facebook.com/ChapStick” says the ad, forgetting to add “But Only If You Have Nothing Critical to Say.” While ChapStick does reserve the right to delete any comments on its own Facebook page, the action was an explicit example of corporate censorship in social media and, as you may have heard, not many people were happy about it.
Looking to save face, ChapStick removed the ad from their Facebook page and even issued an apology, which would have been great if a) The ad did not remain on the official Chapstick website, where I might add absolutely no one can comment on it, and b) the apology didn’t read like a passive-aggressive FB message from a Regina George-type jerk. The apology posted on their page begins:
We see that not everyone likes our new ad, and please know that we certainly didn’t mean to offend anyone! Our fans and their voices are at the heart of our new advertising campaign, but we know we don’t always get it right. We’ve removed the image and will share a newer ad with our fans soon!
OK cool, Chapstick. I think I may be able to start to forgive—
We apologize that fans have felt like their posts are being deleted and while we never intend to pull anyone’s comments off our wall, we do comply with Facebook guidelines and remove posts that use foul language, have repetitive messaging, those that are considered spam-like (multiple posts from a person within a short period of time) and are menacing to fans and employees.
Really right now, Chapstick? Really? You are sorry for how fans have felt and not for your own insensitive, Big Brother-y actions? Fans have felt that their posts are being deleted? These screenshots seem to suggest that their comments actually were deleted, specifically those comments that were critical. How do comments like “This ad is disgusting and degrading” or “This is why you are losing so many customers. This ad is in poor taste” fall into the categories of foul, repetitive, spam-like, or of all things, menacing? Do you even care about moisturizing my wind-chapped lips or do you just want to silence them forever? Well, ChapStick, over the past few days I’ve given you enough time to come forward and make things right, but you just keep responding in increasingly douche-y ways. As such, I must treat you as any Facebook friend that I have come to realize is a douchebag. Unfriend. Unlike. It’s over. Where’s my Carmex?