This Bayer Ad Is Rape Culture In An Almost Impressively Short Form

In a perfect world, there would be trigger warnings on advertisements. In an even more perfect world, major corporations would quit immersing tropes that promote rape culture into their ads as a means of selling products. Not helping things at all, major pharmaceutical brand Bayer released an ad that perpetuates rape culture. It will definitely make you feel really uncomfortable and potentially violently angry, because it’s just disgusting.

The ad we’re mad about markets Aspirina, one of Bayer’s aspirin products. It reads, “‘Don’t worry babe, I’m not filming this.’mov” in red and green text. We don’t have much context, but the subtext is clear: the .mov ending suggests nonconsensual taping of sex, with the “babe” simply trying to mask the situation as a loving, intimate interaction. The ad is placed on a grey background, lending it an even more aesthetically creepy feel.

Brazilian agency Almap BBDO distributed the ad for the pharmaceutical company, and Bayer admitted to approving it. However, it claimed Almap BBDO paid to run the controversial ad in “limited placement” so it could be entered at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, which has been dubbed the Oscars of advertising. “Bayer has not advertised Aspirin through any channel in Brazil for several years,” Bayer said in a statement to AdWeek. “We have asked that BBDO discontinue any further use, dissemination or promotion of this campaign.”

Not surprisingly, Twitter users gave the brand a good ‘ol beating in the social media schoolyard. Because holy shit: the idea of a company whose purpose is, you’d think, to have people’s health and welfare in mind but is instead perpetuating nonconsensual sex, sickens me. But here’s the even sadder part: the ad took home a bronze award at Cannes. The jury consisted of 11 men and seven women, so there’s part of your answer.

Bayer is receiving loads of warranted backlash, but the company’s not alone. But just yesterday, VaynerMedia and Thrillist were under fire for a sexist party invitation that read, “Please be aware that this specific list is for attractive females and models only.” Get the fuuuuck out of here. Everyone knows the most interesting person at a party is the one who does not adhere to conventional beauty standards, so have fun being totally bored at the party with the knowledge you’re a regressive dipshit.

I get tasteful sex appeal to the tune of a little skin here and there (I mean, J. Biebs didn’t get all those tattoos to hide under a turtleneck), but a gross display of sexism on such a massive platform is highly destructive. Thankfully, Unilever, which owns major brands like Dove, Axe and Ben & Jerry’s, has instituted company-wide policies preventing sexism from seeping into their ads. Other companies could stand to follow suit.

We see around 5,000 ads a day, so while they might get in the way of our seamless YouTube viewing here and there, they hold a lot more psychological weight than we sometimes give them credit for. At least this is a great excuse to start buying store-brand aspirin.