Another Unethical TV Commercial: Twix Trivializes Lies, Infidelity

Twix’s successful “Need a moment?” campaign has long based its humor on encouraging people to lie themselves out of various embarrassing predicaments. Though almost all of them portray men as stereotypical sexist creeps, they have generally been within acceptable limits of exaggeration for the sake of humor. Its recent ad, however, crosses ethical  lines by seeming to trivialize and even encourage infidelity, while claiming that the product can facilitate it.

In the spot, a man’s girlfriend (or wife) glances at his cell phone while they are in a coffee shop and confronts him with the fact that a “Terry” has texted that she “needs him.” After momentary panic, cured by a delicious Twix bar, the trapped cheater convinces his significant other that “Terry” is his boss, and a he. Then Terry texts to “bring the whipped cream.” “For his latte,” the player explains.

The original ending suggests sexual infidelity, which may be why it seems to have been cut from the shortened version now playing.

Betrayal, infidelity and lies have long been fodder for farce and comedy, but this commercial  seeks to corrupt the the viewer by encouraging him to sympathize with the cheater—he is, after all, the one eating the Twix. A commercial that promotes its product as a useful tool for liars and the secretly promiscuous is selling bad attitudes and bad conduct as well as sweets.

9 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Daily Life, Family, Gender and Sex, Love, Popular Culture, U.S. Society

9 responses to “Another Unethical TV Commercial: Twix Trivializes Lies, Infidelity

  1. Neil A. Dorr

    Jack,
    No ONE who watches this commercial is going to assume the makers of Twix are encouraging extra-marital affairs of infidelity. Moreover, even if the ad were encouraging such behavior, no one is going to start doing so simply because “Twix said it was ok.” Finally, the spot itself seems to suggest (based on the skeptical look the character receives from his partner) that his story was pretty transparent and the rouse would soon be found out.

    I’ll leave it at that as we’ve gone back and forth on commercial ethics before. Still, I assert that all previous “Tide” arguments are applicable in this case as well and should therefore be considered as precedent (by way of my self-appointed fiat power), in which case stare decisis holds and I win. That being said, I still look forward to your response ..

    -Neil

    • Jeff

      You may be right, but I don’t see anything wrong with saying, “You know what this commercial’s REALLY saying, right?” because there is at least a few people who don’t even recognize an issue like that when they see it and could stand to have it demonstrated.

  2. AS another commenter correctly notes, the influence of cultural messages are more subtle than that, Neil. I thought about this one a long time, and it was the elimination of the ending that convinced me that not only was the commercial over the line, but the makers knew it. Note that the Tide commercial is now edited so the mother says nothing. This is akin to the doctrine in tort law that suggests that repairs and changes after an accident may show that the defendant realized that something was amiss, even thought he denies liability.
    In most comedies, the unfaithful boy friend or husband gets a comeuppance. In this commercial, he not only gets away with it, but Twix uses that as a selling point. I’m not losing any sleep over it, but its wrong.

  3. Elizabeth

    Listen up. Your comments so far are sickening. Twix wants you to lie. DirecTV wants you to throw snowballs or send icky “treats” to your neighbors who are fans of opposing teams, and worse, DirecTV helps the viewer classify friends as “being worth a Franklin ($100 bill). Tide (or whatever the brand is) encouraged mothers to lie to their daughters… after the mom wore and stained the daughter’s shirt. Tide (or whomever) has since adjusted the advertisement, wherein the mother now says nothing to the daughter but runs off to wash the “missing” shirt.

    What are we doing here? Encouraging parents to lie to their children? Viewing “friends” as opportunities to make a quick hundred? Chewing a Twix bar to get oneself out of an embarrassing situation? Your attention please: you may be right that Twix isn’t advocating illicit affairs, but it IS advocating the use of a stupid candy bar to give one a chance to get out of trouble.

    You all may see this as trivial. I do not. I have a 16-year-old son and as luck would have it, he sees all this for what it is: unethical behavior couched in “humorous” terms. These vendors are teaching bad ethics and bad behavior, and worse, are demeaning our society.

  4. Here I agree with Elizabeth fully. I would add that Twix is, after all, a candy. Children pay attention to candy commercials! Throwing these concepts of dishonesty (along with the “whipped cream”!) is inherently destructive to their developing sense of values. They get far too much of that from the culture already. This is almost as bad, at its core, as those “adult” cartoon shows (“Family Guy”, “King of the Hill”, etc.) which, being cartoons, are also a kid magnet by nature. And, naturally, all of these producers are not only aware of this, but counting on it.

  5. Neil A. Dorr

    Jack et al,
    I’m NOT advocating the ethics of any of the characters presented in these ads, only arguing that there is no real “message” attached. All any of these companies care about is whether consumers heed the suggestion of the ad and buy their product. Moreover, even if there were a more ulterior motive, it’s irrelevant as we’re not mindless automatons who are compelled to do everything we see on television.

    People willing to cheat on their spouses are not going to be further encouraged because Twix “said it was ok” any more than a mother is likely to steal(*) one of her daughter’s dresses because now Tide will help her cover it up. Arguing that any fictional narrative is unethical does nothing to promote ethics and does everything to diminish our rational mind. We have free will (or something that looks very much like it) for a reason. Use it.

    -Neil

    (*) In a legal sense, there’s no proof that any real “theft” occurred in the Tide scenario. The daughter depicted in the ad is clearly underage, making it quite likely the dress in question was a gift from one or both of her parents in the first place. Moreover, even if it wasn’t, parents are given legal custodianship of their child’s property which would mean the dress was (technically) hers to begin with.

    • I’d summarize my position like this: anytime socially undesirable conduct is portrayed in media, pop culture or entertainment as acceptable, cute, excusable, reasonable or effective, it undermines the cultural consensus against it. Why are portrayals of funny drunks suddenly banned from almost all entertainment, and certainly ads? Why are “good” characters never shown smoking on TV, and seldom in movies? Because we have concluded that the culture should discourage the conduct as bad for us—just as we don’t show “funny” bigotry in ads. Infidelity and adultery cause billions of dollars of harm every year, destroys families, leads to emotional illness, even murder—is it not as worthy of taboo in the manner of drunk driving, underage sex, unprotected sex, anti-Semitism, etc.? Or are you willing to say the conduct is comparatively OK?

  6. Neil A. Dorr

    Jack,
    The CONDUCT is not okay, even ADVOCATING the conduct I would agree is unethical, but (as I said) the only message any of these commercials really convey is to “buy Twix” (which, unless we’re going to delve into the ethics of selling junk food, isn’t unethical or immoral). Sometimes a cigar is JUST a cigar.

    Moreover, as I’ve said, even if the point of the ad WAS to encourage infidelity, why is Twix at fault and not the jerk who couldn’t keep it in his pants? I’m sorry, but personal responsibility in my mind trumps all other considerations. “Garbage in, garbage out” may work on computers, but people are supposed to have higher reasoning than that, making the fault their own. As studies have repeatedly shown, there’s no direct (or even an indirect) correlation between media violence and real violence.

    Moreover, bigotry, alcoholism, and even antisemitism are all still regularly used as fodder for laughs in books, movies, and stand-up routines. If we can’t recognize and laugh at even the darkest sides of our nature, then we’d be forever trapped in an endless cycle of guilt. People are flawed by their very nature, making it a quintessential part of the human experience, and therefore, fair game.

    -Neil

  7. Neil A. Dorr

    Jack,
    I normally try and refrain from using capital letters as a means of emphasizing points but sometimes it slips in anyways (or, in the case of my last message NUMEROUS times [damnit]). Anyways, it was meant solely as emphasis, not attitude, and I apologize if anything about the above seemed snarky or overly self-righteous.

    Best!

    -Neil

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