“Conversation-starter”: noun. Used by ad and PR agencies to describe a campaign based on pissing off a substantial percentage of the population in the name of promoting a product. Implicit message: Those who are pissed off have no sense of humor; those who have a sense of humor like the edgy, rebellious product in question, generally something mass-marketed by a multiheaded hydra of a multinational corporation.

The first line of defense when an ad or campaign gets tarred as offensive is to claim noble intentions: “We’re just starting a conversation!” Now that’s being used to defend Dr Pepper Ten’s “Not for Women” campaign, which features—among other things—an online shooting gallery where men can use imaginary guns to destroy lipstick and high heels. The gallery exists, presumably, because in the world of 10-calorie Dr Pepper beverages, real men pretend to destroy pretty things for women with a gun, and that’s totally normal, and not just profoundly deranged and weird.

For the record, I couldn’t locate the “gun violence against women’s stuff” game on Ten’s Facebook presence, indicating that the company may be walking back its commitment to conversation-starting. There is, however, an app called “Ten Man’Ments” that allows you to give Dr Pepper access to your Facebook profile in return for reading a list of 10 things including “Thou Shalt Not OMG” and “Thou Shalt Not Post Furry Animal Videos: Exceptions Made for Beasts Fighting to the Death.” So now, apparently, Michael Vick is the new Dr Pepper Ten role model?

Of course, irritated columns like this one are no doubt exactly what the brand-makers at Dr Pepper intended. People are talking about the new product, and single, insecure men everywhere are identifying with the message (and soft drink) as a way to assert their superiority over (or at least independence from) their much lamented ex-girlfriends.

Quick perspective check: Dr Pepper (Ten or otherwise) is sugary water that has as much to do with manhood as terrible, watery beer. And like macrobrew, it’s incredibly profitable because the ingredients are very cheap, and people are addicted to the taste of sweet and/or alcoholic liquids. Gender has nothing to do with it; flavor has very little to do with it. It’s the nectar of the saps (and its lo-cal nature probably won’t help very much vis-à-vis weight loss).

Anyhow, drink up, dudes. And enjoy the “conversation.”

Image source: YouTube.com

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