Kraft's latest campaign for their Zesty Italian Dressing features this good-looking human wearing what appears to be no clothing. The tagline reads "Silverware Optional — Let's Get Zesty." One Million Moms, the group that has a habit of getting bent out of shape about this stuff, has deemed it "the most disgusting ad on the inside front cover that we have ever seen Kraft produce." It's even worse than that last disgusting ad on the inside front cover that they won't even name. It was just that bad.
The groups – whose goal it is to "stop the exploitation of our children" – says that it's:
"...unnecessary for Kraft to use s*x to sell salad dressing! (An asterisk is used to ensure our emails get through to those who have signed up to receive our alerts. Otherwise, referencing specific words would cause our emails to be blocked by some Internet filters.)"
Just so you don't think they're being prudes for no reason at all.
The Kraft campaign fits right into a style of advertising we've seen a lot of lately. In fact, the commercials have that same ridiculous "we're making fun of this but we're also playing off the fact that this dude is hot" vibe as the famous Old Spice commercials that everyone is attempting to emulate. Zesty Guy makes dinner. He asks you if you're "in the mood to make something special." The salad dressing he's using is so hot it accidentally burns off his shirt (no explanation for why he's cooking salad dressing). All of this happens in a joking hot-man-seducing-you tone. He cooks sausage ("Once you go Italian, you'll never go back"). He makes his own pizza crust, seductively slapping the dough ("When it comes to pizza crust, I like to do things by hand. So tonight, things might get a little messy."). Insert more double-entendres here.
The rest of the campaign basically screams at you to "SHARE IT ON SOCIAL MEDIA," just like the ads in the recent Oscar Mayer campaign do. For instance: You can go to getmezesty.com and send your friend a "ZESTYGRAM" (the far-reaching influence of Instagram runs deep) which is personalizable.
There is a small grain of dismay that's acceptable here, though it's not the kind that One Million Moms is displaying or anywhere near the size. It's that if this Kraft ad featured a naked woman, we'd be so bored and angry about it. "Yet another naked woman," we'd say. But men's bodies haven't historically been held to the same sexualized and fetishized standards as women's. Advertisers can get away with sexing up to market to women (50 percent of the buying public) without getting in trouble.
The way men and women are marketed to mimics the divide between male and female strippers. Female strippers are an object of sexual pleasure for women, while male strippers are an object of humor. The screaming and laughing that accompanies your traditional bachelorette party always appears to be a way for women to enjoy seeing men naked while not getting in trouble for being legitimately excited by the whole thing. Whereas of course men want to see a hot girl naked. They don't need to scream and pretend it's funny. They can sit back, relax and enjoy.
Zesty Guy is allowed to be funny because of all those other ads that aren't funny at all, and playing off the humorless advertising landscape is a common trope for advertisers these days (see: Kotex's infamous campaign that basically boils does to "Tampon ads are stupid"). The Kraft guy's face doesn't really scream "zest," either — it sort of screams, "Man I'm a little sleepy, let me just fall asleep with my junk casually covered by the corner of your picnic blanket?" Maybe the implication is that you JUST got zesty with him, which is even zestier than a naked man. So One Million Moms is right: this ad campaign really is s*xy. But it's also funny and knowing, and that's not a bad thing.
Image via Kraft