Advertisements promoting Arizona Iced Tea have irked area leaders who call the slogan on the signs — “I love big cans” — sexist and offensive to women. Following exclusive coverage in the Queens Chronicle, one area lawmaker outraged over the marketing strategy is now encouraging people to not purchase the products.
“They have a pattern of offending people in order to make a profit,” City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) said Thursday. “It is disrespectful, especially for a company that puts out a 23-ounce can of diabetes. It’s a product we should all stay away from.”
The signs that proclaim “I love big cans,” feature a picture of the tall drink. But “cans” is also slang for breasts, or, in its singular form, to a person’s behind.
The company claims it never intended to convey a sexual message, but Vallone called that “laughable.” Jackie Harrigan, a spokeswoman for Arizona, said the nationwide campaign, which has been running for about one year, is based solely on the popularity of its product.
“Arizona’s current campaign is meant to be lighthearted and to promote our 23-ounce cans,” Harrigan said in a email statement. “It celebrates our iconic packaging, and that’s the only message we intend to send.”
But Vallone’s not buying it.
“I guess the next thing Arizona will try to sell its customers is the Brooklyn Bridge,” he said.
Asked if the company would be pulling the ads, Harrigan did not respond.
This is not the first time Vallone has criticized the tea company. In 2008, he called on the president of the Arizona Beverage Company to discontinue the graffiti-covered design on the containers of its “All City NRG” energy drink.
Vallone said the cans glorified vandalism as they featured many graffiti tags, as well as defaced subway signs and buildings. “All City” is a term used to describe someone who has defaced property in every borough, Vallone said. Arizona did not heed Vallone’s advice, however, but the product eventually faded away.
Now Vallone has set his sights on “big cans.” He said as soon as he saw the May 7 story in the Chronicle, he immediately thought, “Here we go again.” Vallone added that Arizona should be more responsible in its advertising, and that previous campaigns by the company have outraged both women and Native Americans.
Although he said his constituents will ultimately have to decide for themselves whether or not they will buy the product, he believes it is his responsibility as a lawmaker to make them aware of such things and speak out on their behalf.
Asked what he would say to critics, who feel his time would be better spent addressing more serious issues, Vallone replied, “I have enough time to do what my job requires. We should not remain silent when it comes to offensive behavior.”
Vallone said he would be teaming up with City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) to organize a boycott, but was not sure what form it would take yet. To start, Comrie said he would post his views about the ads on his website and Facebook page.
“They are directly disrespecting women in a sexist and vulgar manner,” Vallone said. “Arizona has no problem offending us, so I think the only way they will learn is if we hit them where it hurts — their sales numbers.”
City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst), chairwoman of the Committee on Women’s Issues, and City Councilman James Sanders Jr. (D-Laurelton) were also troubled by the way Arizona is selling its tea.