Every so often, an ad comes along that is so morally bankrupt and fundamentally damaging that people like me feel compelled to speak out. An ad that is utterly thoughtless and stupid, that shows a disgraceful lack of foresight and consideration by all involved. An ad that should have never made it to the airwaves, and that harms the reputation of the industry. These type of ads are thankfully rare; at some point they get killed by an account manager, a creative director, the client, or anyone with an iota of sense. Somehow though, one managed to slip past the net. This ad is a disgrace, and everyone involved should feel ashamed to have created such a toxic and ethically vacant piece of idiocy. I refer to the latest DIRECTV ad, "Petite Randy Moss".

According to Wikipedia, Randy Moss is a retired 6' 4" American Football player. I've never heard of him before, firstly being a Brit and secondly avoiding sports as aversely as I might avoid a legionella outbreak. The format of this ad compares the real Moss to an inferior "Petite" version. It's the very latest in a long line of mediocre ads that grabs at low hanging fruit. The reason this ad is morally as sour as licking a toxic puddle is that while previous ads have compared a celebrity to a silly version of themselves, this one goes for a short joke and spectacularly fails. It's a coup de grace, an ad so dumb and damaging that is doesn't even understand it's own basic concept. Let me spell it out. You compare thing A to thing B. Thing B is an inferior version, but that inferiority comes from a personality or character fault. Bad comedian/ creepy/ arts and crafty. Here's an illustration: "I'm David Felton. And I'm Shares Too Much Information David Felton." It's so obvious, an intern could write your ad in an hour. It's advertising by numbers. It's easy. How can you mess this up? How can you spectacularly screw up your own formula?

The problem is when you start ridiculing and basically putting the idea out there that short people are inferior. It's saying to the American public: Tall = Success. Short = Pathetic. And here's why. You're taking the piss out of a physical quality someone has no control over. Would you make an ad: "Hi I'm Kevin Bacon... And I'm disabled Kevin Bacon." No. Why? Because ridiculing disabled people isn't okay is it DIRECTV, you morally bankrupt assholes. You understand that, don't you? You're not looking for laughs as the expense of those with cerebral palsy? That's a start. How about race? "I'm the black guy!" No, you're not playing race for laughs. Imagine the uproar if you did that. Similarly, you're not taking the piss out of women, blind people, those with mental illness, etc. But who do you go after? The stutters? The autistics? Those with Prader-Willi Syndrome? No. You take a big monumental shit on all the short guys out there, because lol, short people are a joke, aren't they? Short guys in particular. Short guys are the butt of your funny joke.

This is total garbage, actually damaging, cultural garbage. When we pause and look in detail at the advert in question, we see a host of caustic and frankly dumb social assumptions that the writers have sneaked in. For starters, real Moss is wealthy – in a beautifully decorated modern house. The place is, frankly, stunning, complete with art, sculpture and minimalist décor. Real moss wears a finely cut suit. He looks a million dollars. Several million at the least. Compare to Short Moss – he dresses like a kid in a unfashionable cardigan and collared shirt combo (because short people are JUST CHILDREN, GET IT??). He doesn’t get to live in the amazing house. He lives in the much shitter house (because short people EARN LESS MONEY, GET IT??). He doesn’t get to watch the Big Game. He watches cartoons (because short people are INTELLECTUALLY INFERIOR, GET IT???). The entire thing stinks from top to bottom. It’s an insulting embarrassment to anyone who touched it with a barge poll.

Here’s a response from a current DIRECTV customer, Geoffrey Arnold of New York, NY, speaking to Adland:

I think the most offensive part about this ad is that the creators of the ad thought they could get away with blatant body shaming because it was based on height instead of weight. Can you imagine the backlash such an ad would receive if it were "big boned" (insert famous athlete) who uses cable? Would they really use an overweight body as a punchline and risk alienating a large portion of their potential consumer base? I doubt it. However, body shaming is perfectly fine when it comes to height because they know that shorter men are unlikely to speak out for fear of being labeled with a complex or being seen as oversensitive.
Also note that the rest of the Direct TV ads that involve a "cable version" of a famous person all revolve around the odd or quirky behavior of that "cable version" versus the "DirectTV version". But here, it wasn't about "Petite Randy Moss's" behavior, but about the body to which he was given. The message of the ad is clear. "Petite Randy Moss" isn't a bad guy; it's just that he's very short and so he has a poor quality of life. That's the joke. Get it? Apparently, DirectTV thinks that the mere existence of a short male body is a punchline. So...

I'll be canceling my subscription at the end of the month.

That’s what happens when you make ads like these. You lose customers. And you deserve it, utterly.

Here’s a potential new customer, Nataka from California, who once again reached out to contact Adland:

This ad is a lazy attempt to market a product using poor humor.
I've seen Direct TV ads before where they have the creepy, jerk and meat-head guy (to name a few) playing the negative opposite role. The one common thing being the negative role is always a 'choice' lifestyle.
"Don't be this guy" and pointing towards a character portraying a grown Man that is unable to reach the top shelf in a cereal isle is not funny. Direct TV is trying to advertise a NFL viewing package with this ad. Last I checked, the NFL was branding and marketing itself as a Family friendly sport. If I'm correct, what is a kid that's already being bullied because of his height gonna think about the mixed message this ad is sending?

What indeed? Did you even stop to think for a few seconds before putting this piece of deleterious out into the world? Does Grey have the best account managers in New York? They should ask for a promotion if they’re pushing work this bad out. The AMs on this project must be learning hypnosis. That’s the only explanation. I am literally lost for words on how this got signed off. It’s intellectually and morally void; all you’re saying is ‘Short people are inferior, let’s laugh at them and how they can’t even reach a high shelf.’ Thought you could sneak a little ‘Giraffe Crunchies’ joke in too, eh?. Because giraffes are tall, unlike short people (who are pathetic), am I right?

In contrast, in an interview with Adland, Tom Megginson told us:

I'm a fairly short guy myself, but I don't feel personally insulted. I think the sight gag is infantile, however in my opinion it would have been much worse if "Petite Randy Moss" had actually been a person with dwarfism (like Mini-Me in the Austin Powers films). So, offensive? Not quite worth any outrage. More like a slight. We small guys are used to it. I think they went out-of-their-way to stay on the safer side of making fun of physical size by making the smaller guy within "normal" height range.

Very interesting points from Tom. DIRECTV can’t ridicule actual Dwarfs, but apparently short men are fine – as long as they don’t have a medical condition. But how short do they have to be to become the butt of a joke? When does too short become just another disability?

People got themselves frothy at the mouth over a harmless “Are You Beach Body Ready” ad earlier in the year. It became a conversation about body shaming. This is the real body shaming, and it’s genuinely shameful.

Grey New York
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Comments (18)

  • kidsleepy's picture
    kidsleepy

    This ad doesn't bother me at all. If anything it's playing off of the one edge that supposedly Randy Moss has and that's his height. Unlike another version of himself. This is no different than Scrawny Arms Rob Lowe in the campaign. Honestly, people need to chill the fuck out.

    Aug 27, 2015
  • David Felton's picture
    David Felton

    I think it's sending out a bad message. It's not really a case of 'Am I bothered? Am I offended?' That doesn't concern me. I'm worried that it's confirming a lot of negative biases people have. Generally people don't get kill themselves because of their scrawny arms.

    Aug 27, 2015
  • Dabitch's picture
    Dabitch

    David, I'll be the first to tell you that my Napoleon complex is bigger than yours (zing!), because when I was 16 I was 4.9 (152 cm) and people constantly locked me into my own school locker because it was hilarious that I could fit. So, on the one level, I get it - height is not anything we can do much about (no matter what they tell you vitamins and proteins can't make you taller than you are genetically inclined to be). It's also worse for men to be not-tall than it is for women, because at least I can strap on heels and I am expected to be shorter than any partner. You're right, this isn't humor on the same path as creepy Rob Lowe. But really, your frustration with this ad almost read like a parody, as if I had landed in Bizarro-Jezebel.

    Aug 27, 2015
  • Giraffe Crunch's picture
    Giraffe Crunch (not verified)

    Pause the ad when he is in the super market, you'll see that there's a cereal named "Giraffe Crunch" on one of the lower shelves. Since creatives make every product seen in such (can't mess with a trademark so everything is vetted by legal) people worked hard on mocking short guys in this ad. It's time for us to join the outrage culture people and get this ad pulled off the air.

    Aug 27, 2015
  • Giraffe Crunch's picture
    Giraffe Crunch (not verified)

    While I think you've turned the outrage up WAY too high, and this outrage-society is really wearing on me, I will acknowledge that height is outside a person's control, and that makes it a lot less funny than the earlier ads.

    Aug 27, 2015
  • Andy's picture
    Andy (not verified)

    David, forgive the pun, but your point could have been made much shorter. Dabitch should have edited this outrage rant down to size.

    Aug 27, 2015
  • Tom Megginson's picture
    Tom Megginson (not verified)

    I may be short, but I still enjoy all kinds of unearned demographic privilege. I guess that's why I can't get really riled up against this one. It's just like I can find a Black or woman comedian's jokes at the expense of "my people" funny and mostly harmless.

    As you all know, I am quite happy to steam up my glasses arguing on behalf of other, more historically marginalized, groups who are put down. But the fact is, even though I once endured bullying for my smaller size, at this middle point in my life I wouldn't change a thing about myself. (Well, maybe lose some weight.) So perhaps it's simply pride that keeps me from feeling the sting of having shortness compared to nerdiness.

    Aug 27, 2015
  • Tom Megginson's picture
    Tom Megginson (not verified)

    I want to read Bizarro-Jezebel! Make it so!

    Aug 27, 2015
  • AnonymousCoward's picture
    AnonymousCoward (not verified)

    I bet the writer is a short person lol

    Sep 03, 2015
  • RobertPalmer's picture
    RobertPalmer (not verified)

    You know what isn't short? This post. Way too long. David, you lost the plot half-way through and need to check with your editor before publishing.

    Sep 03, 2015
  • AnonymousCoward's picture
    AnonymousCoward (not verified)

    David - SUPERBLY WRITTEN!

    Sep 03, 2015
  • Steve rice's picture
    Steve rice (not verified)

    David,
    I really appreciate that you have put a light on this. This ad very insulting for me. At least once a week I have to ask someone to obtain items that are too high for me to reach. It is a hassle. Often I have to go to the other side of the store just to find an employee to help me. And there have been MULTIPLE times I did NOT even get the item because an attractive woman was in the isle and I was embarrassed. Of course I get it. You can't move the shelves down in every store for less than 1% of the population. BUT AT LEAST HAVE THE DECENCY TO NOT MOCK ME FOR THAT.
    How does an ad get past the screeners at the ad-firm? How does it get past direct TV? Who previewed that ad and said, "Yeah this is the image we want!"

    Sep 05, 2015
  • David Felton's picture
    David Felton

    Either the client didn't give a shit, or they're simply running out of ideas. Of course, ridiculing short people was a dumb move, and they should have known better. I wonder how many people will simply cancel their subscriptions? If I was a DIRECTV customer, I know I would.

    Sep 06, 2015
  • Brandon's picture
    Brandon (not verified)

    Well said. While I don't find these (terrible) ads to be offensive necessarily, they are juvenile and obtuse. Poking fun at physical characteristics.. really? Did they not listen to this ad's script before airing it? Simply pathetic.

    Sep 28, 2015
  • Get Over Yourselves's picture
    Get Over Yourselves (not verified)

    When the ads in this campaign aren't mocking physical characteristics, they're mocking actual nervous disorders like anxiety, which is much worse than pointing out that Randy Moss' edge comes from being a tall specimen of excellent physique. This thread is full of cry babies that need thicker skin, not more inches. The author of this post should have made the post short and sweet too.

    Sep 28, 2015
  • David Felton's picture
    David Felton

    sport - You're comparing apples and pears. That Bud Light piece was a throwaway line of no substance or intended insult. Some people chose to get upset and offended by it.

    This is genuinely damaging and irresponsible. To compare a tweet-length message on a beer bottle to a purposeful and deliberate :30 ATL is a ridiculous stretch.

    Nov 10, 2015

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