Dr. Pepper 10 response more patronizing than ad

Remember a certain soft drink company that decided the best way to peddle their low-calorie sugar water was with an ad campaign that proclaimed “It’s not for women” and “No girls allowed”?

Well reader Katharine, like many people, wrote in to complain, and the auto-response she received from the company was, incredibly, more condescending and patronizing than the original ad. Commenter Nicole noticed this as well back in October.

Company response reprinted in full after the jump.

January 6, 2012

Dear Ms. XXX:

Thank you for writing to us about Dr Pepper TEN and allowing us to
respond to your concerns.  I am a woman who loves the full flavor of
Dr Pepper TEN and the fact that it’s only 10 calories. When I first
saw the tongue-in-cheek advertising campaign and the tagline, my
reaction was, “I’ll be the judge of that.”  In other words, no
one is going to tell me what I can eat or drink.

We are disappointed to hear that we could be losing you- I see this as
a fun campaign and a very good product that I personally enjoy. We
hope you, too, will come to see our advertising campaign for what it
is, a humorous take on the many men who are worried about their
waistlines but are too “manly” to drink a diet soda.


Consumer Relations

Ah yes, the classic “I’m a woman who’s not offended so you shouldn’t be either” argument. Verrrry effective, I’m told, unless one happens to have that weird genetic tic that causes your personality, thoughts, and feelings to be determined by your brain, not by what some supposedly female Customer Relations talking head tells you to think.

My main problem with this tired ole PR response is that it shows how confused and out of touch the company is. They can’t seem to decide how to defend their company, probably because they won’t admit to themselves that it needs to be defended in the first place. So they downplay its offensiveness as “tongue-in-cheek,” which it may have been intended to be, but don’t acknowledge that they missed the mark or apologize for the offense (nary an apology in sight, in fact). Then, they go on to respond to the legitimate complaint of their customer by condescendingly explaining to her how she should have interpreted the commercial: by excitedly exclaiming “I’ll be the judge of that” while compulsively downing Dr. Pepper 10’s, sticking her fingers in her ears and writing on a chalkboard 500 times “No one can tell me what to do nanny nanny boo boo.”

But seriously. There’s a lesson to be learned from all this. If your company’s sexist ad campaign spurs a wave of outrage and offense, don’t respond by tokenizing some woman from your PR firm and suggesting all women should have the exact same reaction that she did because they’re women too.

H/t Katharine

Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman is a writer and advocate focusing on race, gender, and sexual and reproductive rights. In addition to serving as an Executive Director at Feministing, Lori is the Director of Global Communications at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Lori has previously worked at the United Nations Foundation, the International Women’s Health Coalition, and Human Rights Watch, and has written for a host of print and digital properties including Rookie Magazine, The Grio, and the New York Times Magazine. She regularly appears on radio and television, and has spoken at college campuses across the U.S. about topics like the politics of black hair, transnational movement building, and the undercover feminism of Nicki Minaj. In 2014, she was named to The Root 100 list of the nation's most influential African Americans, and to the Forbes Magazine list of the "30 Under 30" successful people in media.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

Read more about Lori

Join the Conversation