Thursday, November 10, 2011

Black Holes of Davida: Togo's

Togo’s, a fast food sandwich restaurant chain often combined with Dunkin Donuts and Baskin-Robbins, recently released a new ad campaign titled “Better than a Breadwich.” In the commercial (which can be viewed here), two claymation women walking down the street are flashed by a sandwich. At first, they seem traumatized, but then they laugh it off. As the sandwich runs away, a voiceover says, “Don’t settle for puny,” then sells the new Togo’s sandwich.

This commercial is extremely problematic on many levels. It completely negates the fear, anxiety, and humiliation most women feel when they are subjected to street harassment, especially an outright illegal act like flashing. The ad implies that once women get over the surprise of street harassment, they’ll judge the “quality” of their harasser and base their reaction to him on that. Because this sandwich was “puny,” they laughed. If the sandwich was big and meaty, would they have smiled and flirted instead? This is NOT the reality of street harassment. It doesn’t matter what the harasser looks like - women will be upset when they’re flashed, or whistled at, or groped, or otherwise harassed.

It’s also extremely stereotypical. The sandwich, at least in my opinion, seems like a stereotypical Hispanic gangster-type: hanging around in an alley next to a liquor store, with a mustache, wearing sunglasses, preying on non-Hispanic women. (The only twisted little positive this ad has is that it portrays one of the women as African-American. A common misconception about street harassment is that only white women are victimized.)

The saddest part of this is that Togo’s just doesn’t get how offensive it is to women. Renae Scott, the vice president of branding and marketing at Togo’s, described the ad as “edgy.” Ignoring the fact that using the word “edgy” to describe any commercial about a pork sandwich is asinine, does she really think street harassment is edgy, trendy, cutting edge? Does she want someone to come over to her while she’s walking on the street with a friend and flash her? Does she want that to happen to her friends? Mother? Grandmother? Aunts? Nieces? Daughters?

So tell Togo’s that you find this ad offensive! You can email them here and say:

I find your recent “Better than a Breadwich” commercial highly offensive. It trivializes street harassment, a serious and traumatizing crime that shouldn’t be taken lightly or mocked in a commercial. I strongly urge you to pull this campaign and substitute it with something that doesn’t poke fun at women who have been flashed and otherwise harassed on the street.

I sent them an email in complaint, and they responded:

We wanted to make sure you knew that we received your comment regarding our recent TV commercial. It is never our intention to offend anyone.  Our spot was meant to be fun and quirky and to make fun of sandwiches that are all bread and no meat.  I will make sure our Marketing team hears your concerns. I truly appreciate your feedback and will pass it along to our Brand Marketing team.

Make sure they hear from as many people as possible. There’s strength in numbers!

For now, I dub Togo's an inductee into the Black Holes of Davida - people who let us feminists down by advocating misogyny, sexism, abuse, and other anti-woman thoughts and actions.