A furore has erupted over a chocolate bar television advert flighted in the US which shows men becoming disgusted by a gay kiss.

First shown during the football Super Bowl telecast on Sunday – one of the most expensive advertising timeslots in the world – the advert features two men who accidentally engage in a kiss. The men are eating from opposite ends of a Snickers bar and, after their mouths touch, rip out their chest hair in a desperate attempt to “do something manly.”

Three alternate endings to the commercial spot were posted on the Snickers website, one of which includes the two men violently attacking one another. In a version called “Wrench”, instead of ripping out their chest hair, one man grabs a wrench and uses it to bash the other, who responds by slamming the hood of the car down on his head. Mars asked visitors to vote on this and three other endings – including the one aired on the Super Bowl telecast – to determine which version would air during other televised events.

This “sends a dangerous message to the public condoning violence against gay Americans”, says the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) – a gay rights organisation – which has condemned the campaign.

The website also shows five NFL (National Football League) players reacting to the several versions of the ad. The players’ reactions range from general amusement, to non-verbal disgust to overt expressions of prejudice.

HRC President Joe Solmonese issued the following statement:

“The makers of Snickers and its parent company at Mars should know better. If they have any questions about why the ad isn’t funny, we can help put them in touch with any number of GLBT Americans who have suffered hate crimes. This type of jeering from professional sports figures at the sight of two men kissing fuels the kind of anti-gay bullying that haunts countless gay and lesbian school children on playgrounds all across the country.”

He called on Mars and Snickers to pull the campaign immediately.

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and the Matthew Shepard Foundation also strongly condemned the ad campaign.

“That Snickers, Mars and the NFL would promote and endorse this kind of prejudice is simply inexcusable,” said GLAAD President Neil G. Giuliano.

According to GLAAD, in early January, TBWAChiatDay New York – the agency behind the advert – asked GLAAD to review and provide analysis on a Snickers ad. GLAAD agreed, but the next day the agency abruptly withdrew its request without having shown the organisation the ad.

In a statement, Mars said that “We know that humour is highly subjective and we understand that some consumers have found the commercial offensive. Clearly that was not our intent. We do not plan to continue the ad on television or on our website.”

By Monday, the ads and the additional reaction footage of the players had been removed from the Snickers website. The ads can still be found on the internet on other sites such as YouTube.

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