by Marion Nestle
Feb 20 2012

Annals of food marketing: Are Dr. Pepper ads sexist?

I am indebted to for bringing the recent ads for Dr Pepper Snapple’s diet—oops, low-calorie—Dr Pepper Ten to my attention.

This drink has only 10 calories but is aimed clearly at men who, the ads assume, are fine about low-calorie sodas but squirm at the idea that they might be seen drinking diet sodas.

In case you haven’t been tracking these things, Coke has both bases covered: Diet Coke appeals to women and Coke Zero appeals to men.

FoodNavigator’s Caroline Scott-Thomas is devastating in her critique of this strategy.  The “it’s not for women” campaign excludes half the market.

Not only that, she says, but the ad is:

patronizing to both men and women in its reinforcement of what I had (perhaps naively) hoped were outdated stereotypes….It deliberately picks at the edges of our comfort zones.  Is it OK to be sexist if it’s done with irony?…Provocation is a blunt instrument.  It may prove effective for sales—perhaps as effective as sexually explicit marketing—but it is still crude and obtuse.”

Finally, she asks: “Would this ad be offensive if it involved a bunch of redneck clichés and proclaimed ‘it’s not for blacks’?  You bet it would.”

In this era of food overabundance, marketers will do anything—anything—to sell products.  Water, anyone?

  • daven

    I follow the European Food Navigator and couldn’t help but notice this algal flour intended to reduce fat ( in (baked) foods. I guess I was just surprised to see that it passed so quickly within the EU, and that it must pass the FDA GRAS test. It struck me as something that is actually very good about our food system. My personal thoughts on these types of food products are that they pollute nutrition evidence-based information because now people can be obsessed with fat (again). Sigh. I know my comment is a bit OT but I don’t think it’s too far before we see this in the US.

  • Drives me nuts. It’s like advertising to the lowest common denominator. Product advertising is copying political ads – rile ’em up and they’ll buy.

  • justthefacts

    Water–yes! Lake Michigan’s finest for me, thank you!

    This media/marketing mania for constant access to a beverage has taken us to the brink (of sanity). So much for all those who claim not to be affected by advertising. I can honestly tell you that no soda (or other sweetened beverage) has passed my lips for almost 40 years. I gave it up after a really painful root canal that the dentist said was caused by sugar/soda. I was on a bottled water toot for years, but gave that up as well. I realized that I could actually survive a trip to the mall without a beverage. I take tap water in a travel mug for longer drives. When I want something fancy I put club soda in a wine glass with a slice of lemon. Sometimes I even have a glass of wine with dinner–but I measure and count the calories toward the daily total.

    I know–how weird is all that? My patriotism is sure to be questioned!

  • justthefacts

    Oh yes–it IS sexist but mostly it’s just stupid.

  • OK- It’s not for women- I’ll buy that- and it shouldn’t be for anyone else either. It’s junk, just like Coke, Pepsi, and other sodas.

  • Jon

    The Dr. Pepper adds are certainly reinforcing male stereotypes, but on the other hand, that actors hands are very clearly and very finely manicured. So it’s getting it’s stereotypes mixed up…

  • NYFarmer


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  • I heard about this campaign back in October, when it was previewed in relatively small cities, no doubt testing the waters before a national roll out.

    What strikes me now is that there was a certain prescience in the anti-woman stance.. look at what is now playing out in the republican primary debates.