Marketing the Rainbow
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Doritos is an American brand of flavored tortilla chips produced since 1964 by Frito-Lay, a wholly owned subsidiary of PepsiCo. Doritos - and some if its sister brands - has gained notoriety for its marketing campaigns, including many ads aired during the Super Bowl. They are a participant in Marketing The Rainbow, but not always in a positive way. Their love-hate relationship with the LGBT community was shown in a number of gay tease commercials, where gays were used to make fun of. In some cases that 'fun' even turned homophobic. The annual contest Crush The Super Bowl always spawned a number of similarly themes clips.
In 2002, Pepsico’s Doritos released such a “gay tease” commercial with Enrique Iglesias, where the singer appeared to be falling in love with a man in his audience. The viewers quickly learn that Iglesias is after the man’s bag of chips.
In 2003, sister brand Lay’s potato chips released a satirical commercial showing four men watching football on TV. They make concerted efforts not to touch one another – immediately pulling their knees back when they touch and recoil when their hands reach for the same soda bottle. When their team scores a touchdown, the men are rolling all over the couch and hugging. Obviously, this ad, like the Doritos one, was not aimed at gays, but used a gay theme for ‘fun’. That approach can also have a backlash.
Another negative response was received for an alleged homophobic video clip for Doritos in Brazil, where it was making the rounds on gay blogs. In it, four friends are riding in a car, when one of them suddenly starts 'dancing' to YMCA. A bag of Doritos covers the guy's face and a slogan says "Wanna share something with your friends? Share a bag of Doritos." While the whole thing may seem harmless, gay rights groups claimed that the commercial discriminated against gay men by suggesting that acting gay or coming out to your friends is not appropriate. Gay rights group ABGLT filed a formal complaint asking for the Doritos commercial to be banned from television.
In 2011 the Super Bowl contest saw another Doritos commercial with the gay theme, set in a sauna. Two men, sitting inappropriately close to another, seem to be getting intimate. Again, of course, this concerned the bag of Doritos that one, naturally, takes into a sauna.
Another clip was made for the contest in 2009: an Adam and Eve commercial called "What's Your Flavor", in which Adam chooses a chubby guy with Doritos over hot Eve. In a variation to that commercial, Adam just prefers the Doritos over Eve’s seducing apple. This commercial was not chosen as the winner.
The same year they released the “Told you so” ad - or did they? The commercial was shot by director John Kenney for the Super Bowl contest. It didn't get chosen but it got a great response virally, being mentioned on Perez Hilton and the View.
A real commercial from 2011 is about role reversal: three female models strut seductively from behind a light blue curtain, wearing black, blue, and magenta undergarments. As the camera focuses in on each woman a speaker says, “Introducing the latest in bust enhancing technology.” She is abruptly cut off by a loud off camera crunch. A bearded male crewmember is seen munching on Nacho Cheese Doritos between two other male crewmembers. One of the models says “Excuse me… we’re working here.” To which he boastfully responds, “I could do your job.” The commercial then cuts to the three male crewmembers, strutting their stuff from an open doorway, clad in the same black, blue, and magenta undergarments; bras included. Again the speaker begins to announce, ‘bust enhancing technology…’ as each man provocatively poses for the camera. She is again cut off, but this time it is by the models that are shown off camera, in ostensibly male work attire munching on the same Doritos. They chime in with various criticisms, to which one male crewmember asks to switch roles. The models reject his request.
In 2013, they presented “Fashionista Daddy”. during the Super Bowl - the winner of that year's contest. The ad starts with a young girl dressed in a princess costume asking her father to play dress-up with her. The father, while holding a football says, “Sweetheart, I’d love to but the guys are waiting outside for me.” The daughter then pulls out a bag of Doritos chips and the father stares contemplatively at the bag. The next scene shows the friends of the father walking past the daughter's room. The friends catch the father doing a runway-style turn dressed in a gown with a feathered boa and poorly applied makeup while holding the bag of Doritos. Initially the friends seem confused but the next shot shows the group of men, each dressed in drag holding a bag of Doritos. Suddenly, the wife walks by and scowls at one of the men, asking “Is that my wedding dress?” Like a kid caught in the act, he replies awkwardly (and with a Dorito falling out of his mouth), “It could be.” She then walks away, seemingly frustrated.
That same year the video Noodling saw the light of day, one of the many fan-made Doritos commercials, in which a fisherman attracts a merman instead of the desired mermaid. A few more mermaid themed clips were made, as a matter a fact - although the connection to chips eludes me.
In 2015 Doritos launched their most LGBT friendly campaign ever, when they introduced their “Rainbows”, as part of the brand’s partnership with It Gets Better, using the the hashtag #BOLDANDBETTER. The crisps were only available via a $10 donation to It Gets Better, and were not available in shops – but after the campaign went viral online, they quickly sold out.
Without fail, this led to controversies: they were accused of gaywashing. Eco-website Natural News reported: “It doesn't get better: it gets worse. Rainbow Doritos is the latest absurd example of corporate #gaywashing. Frito-Lay trying to feed obese lesbians GMO snack chips laced with MSG and artificial colors”. Other people pointed out that Doritos was still responsible for unethical behavior like using palm oil and destroying the rainforest, and – of course – the conservatives indignantly declared they would never eat a Dorito again.