The most interesting nurse ad in the world
October 25, 2007 -- Viewers of tonight's season premiere of NBC's "Scrubs" did not just miss the nurses that the show mostly ignores. Viewers also missed two "nurses" who no longer appear in an amusing new set of ads for Dos Equis beer, one of which ran during the sitcom. The ads, made by ad agency Euro RSCG, are mock-serious tributes to a character presented as "the most interesting man in the world." This man's "blood smells like cologne," his "beard alone has experienced more than a lesser man's entire body," and he bench-presses two chairs in which sit attractive, giggly women in short dresses--women who are no longer dressed as nurses. That's because the Center appealed to an independent board that handles such protests for Dos Equis maker Heineken. We argued that the ads were inconsistent with specific marketing standards of the company and the Beer Institute. The panel, which included former Vice Presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, agreed that the ads should be changed. So Heineken digitally altered the women's clothing to remove the nursing identifiers, frame by frame. We thank the Heineken for doing so, especially since we understand it hopes to use variations of the ads for years to come. The appearance of the ad on the physician-centric "Scrubs" shows how far we still have to go in persuading the media to present a fair portrait of nursing. But it also shows that persistent advocacy can influence how the media treats the profession.
The ad seen on "Scrubs" tonight actually opens with the scene in which the most interesting man (MIM) is bench-pressing the chairs in which the young women sit, surrounded by a crowd of admirers. But the short white nursing outfits that the women wore in the initial spots are now red and orange, and the nursing caps are gone. We then see MIM besting a police officer at arm-wrestling, freeing a roaring bear from a trap, and laughing with a beautiful woman next to the large fish they have killed (bear good, fish bad). A Latin pop instrumental plays, as a mock-serious male narrator lists MIM's unusual qualities:
VO: The police often question him...just because they find him interesting. His beard alone has experienced more than a lesser man's entire body. His blood smells like cologne. He is the most interesting man in the world.
Finally, we see an older MIM sitting at a restaurant table surrounded by beautiful women. Oozing manly gravitas, he speaks with a slight Spanish accent:
MIM: I don't always drink beer. But when I do, I prefer Dos Equis. Stay thirsty, my friends.
The MIM campaign evidently broke with four television ads in mid-April, and has also appeared in print media.
On May 4, Center member Susan Perry, RN, APRN and Founder of the National Advance Directives Day Initiative, alerted us to the ads. The Center called Heineken USA, and left voicemail messages for marketing executives there. On May 15, Dan Tearno, Senior Vice President and Chief Corporate Relations Officer for Heineken USA, returned the Center's call.
We learned that those who had issues with such ads often argued that they were inconsistent with the Beer Institute Advertising and Marketing Code and/or the Heineken International Rules and Guidelines on Commercial Communication. Challenges to ads were reviewed by the Independent Advertising Complaint Review Board. This board consisted of psychiatrist Robert Phillips, Medical Director of Forensic Consultation Associates, Eva Kasten, former Executive Vice President of The Advertising Council, and former Vice Presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro.
On May 16, Heineken forwarded the relevant rules to the Center. Later that day, Truth executive director Sandy Summers filed the following challenge to the MIM ads:
Dear Mr. Tearno,
Thank you for your message and for sending the documents to me. I appreciate your attention to our concerns about the Dos Equis "Most Interesting Man" television commercial.
Our concerns stem from the depiction of the man bench-pressing two actresses dressed in regressive, somewhat sexually provocative "nurse" attire while seated in chairs at opposite ends of what amounts to his bar bell. The inclusion of the "nurses" is inconsistent with Heineken International's Commercial Communication Code and the U.S. Beer Institute Advertising and Marketing Code in three ways:
1. The inclusion of the "nurses" is inconsistent with the "basic principles" (Section 2) of the Heineken International Commercial Communication Code, p. 1, which states that the company's ads should "be prepared with due regard for our social responsibility" and "in no circumstances ... impugn human dignity and integrity." By promoting the enduring international stereotype of nurses as mute, passive physical and/or sexual objects, as pliable female playthings rather than serious professionals, the ad damages public health. Specifically, it impugns the "dignity" of nurses and fails to reflect "due regard...for social responsibility" by discouraging potential and practicing nurses, and by undermining the profession's claims for adequate clinical and educational resources, at a time when the nursing shortage is a major public health crisis--one that is taking thousands of lives worldwide.
2. The inclusion of the "nurses" is inconsistent with the third basic principle of the U.S. Beer Institute's Beer Advertising and Marketing Code (Jan. 2006 ed.) (the Beer Code), p. 1, in that it does not "reflect the fact that brewers are responsible corporate citizens," for the reasons explained in no. 1, above. In particular, it is not "responsible" to promote nursing stereotypes at a time when the nursing shortage is a global public health crisis.
3. The inclusion of the "nurses" is inconsistent with guideline 3 of the Beer Code, p. 3, which states that brewers are "committed to a policy and practice of responsible advertising and marketing," for the reasons stated in 1, above. Again, it is not "responsible" to promote nursing stereotypes at a time when the nursing shortage is a global public health crisis.
Thank you for your consideration. Please let me know if I can provide you with any more information or if I can answer any questions.
Sandy Summers, RN, MSN, MPH
Executive Director, Center for Nursing Advocacy
In early August, Heineken notified the Center that the Board had made a decision and the company would be changing the ad, digitally altering the dress color and removing the caps. On August 17, the Center received a letter formally notifying us that the Board had decided the ads should be changed in response to our concerns. However, apparently the ads had already changed by late June, because by that time posters on one blog were asking why the nursing elements had vanished.
It's true that this commercial was hardly the worst example of the naughty nurse in advertising. And major consumer companies do tend to be more sensitive about nurses' concerns than, say, the makers of Hollywood sitcoms like "Scrubs." Even so, the process resulting in the change to these ads does illustrate that nurses can affect the way the media treats them if they advocate in a determined way, using all resources available.
We thank Heineken and its review board for taking nurses' concerns into account.
Please send notes of thanks to Dan Tearno, Senior Vice President and Chief Corporate Relations Officer for Heineken USA, by emailing them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will send them on to him. Thank you.
Reviewed by Harry Jacobs Summers
Nursing Editor: Sandy Summers, MSN, MPH, RN
Last updated: November 10, 2007
The views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the Board Members or Advisory Panel of The Center for Nursing Advocacy.