Ads promoting Arizona Iced Tea have raised questions in the Queens community over whether they are offensive to women because of their dual meaning.
The signs proclaim “I love big cans,” with a picture of the tall drink. But “cans” is also slang for breasts, or, in its singular form can refer to a person’s behind. The ads can be found in downtown Jamaica and other parts of the borough.
The company claims it never intended to convey a sexual message, but others say it is offensive especially to minority women who are often stereotyped for having above average endowments.
“It is disrespectful to black women, and all women in general,” said City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), adding that Arizona tends to advertise more heavily in minority communities.
Jackie Harrigan, a spokeswoman for Arizona, said the nationwide campaign, which has been running for about one year, is “not skewed toward any one group.”
“The ‘I love big cans’ slogan is based on the popularity of our 23-ounce pre-priced cans, which are the bread and butter of our business,” Harrigan said.
She added that the company was not aware that the slogan could be perceived to have an alternate meaning and that it was not Arizona’s intention in developing the campaign.
Ann Jawin, president of the Center for the Women of New York in Kew Gardens, wasn’t buying that.
“I’m sure they are not innocent,” she said. “I’m sure they knew about the double entendre when they created the ad. It’s the same long, old story of objectifying women to sell products.”
Harrigan said no one has complained to the company about the ads being sexist or offensive.
Leroy Gadsden, president of the Jamaica branch of the NAACP, said that the company appears to be pushing its products in low-income and minority communities, where the tea is appealing for its price of 99 cents for a large drink.
He believes the ‘big cans’ ads objectify women, whether or not it is intentional, and said it amounts to a cultural sensitivity issue. Gadsden advised that the company diversify its marketing division to avoid future errors in judgment.
“I think it would offend a lot of women who drink the product,” Gadsden said. “There are also a lot of modern-thinking males who would not be supportive of the ads.”
Adrienne Adams, a youth education advocate and member of the Jamaica NAACP, said the ads are typical of the negative images promoting obesity, alcohol and nicotine consumption in downtown Jamaica, and called them equally disturbing.
“Diminishing the individuality of women and girls to body parts in media is excessive,” Adams said in an email. “More often, we need for advertisers to convey a message that encourages women to uplift their minds, not their ‘cans.’”
Donovan Richards, chief of staff to City Councilman James Sanders Jr. (D-Laurelton), said the lawmaker will be sending a letter to Arizona, asking them to pull the ads because they are inappropriate. He also said his staffers will ask bodega owners in the district not to post the signs.
“The cans ads need to be canned for their foolishness,” Richards said. “They are beyond disrespectful.”
City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst), chairwoman of the Council’s Committee on Women’s Issues, was also troubled by the way Arizona is selling its tea.
“I find these ads concerning because they continue the trend throughout the media to objectify women for the purposes of selling products,” Ferreras said in an email statement. “I encourage companies to find more creative and respectful ways of selling their products, if they expect to keep women as consumers.”