The lead character in ‘New Boyfriend’, portrayed by disabled actress Storme Toolis, tells a story to her friends about a recent sexual encounter she had with her new boyfriend.
“So, [I have a] new boyfriend and we’re back at his [place], getting a little, er, frisky. And my hands may have been, er, wandering. And then I start having a spasm, which he misinterprets.” Her friends then comment that the encounter sounded awkward, to which Toolis’ character assures them that he wasn’t complaining. She then reenacts the situation, causing Maltesers to fly out of the bag. Her friends laugh and tell her she’s “so bad“. She responds amid laughter, saying ‘That’s what he said’.
‘New Boyfriend’ was hyped early on by one viewer as ‘brilliantly filthy’. But not everyone felt that way. ‘New Boyfriend’ received 92 formal complaints and according to the Advertising Standards Authority in the UK, it was one of the top 10 most complained about ads in 2017.
If you check out ‘New Boyfriend’ and other Maltesers ads from this campaign, you’ll find these comments on Youtube:
If you were to scour the comments on Toyota’s ‘Good Odds’, which was rated one of the top Superbowl ads of 2018. You’ll discover these were the comments received on YouTube:
What’s the difference between these two ads? In ‘Good Odds’, the disabled person did not speak. ‘New Boyfriend’, on the other hand, featured a dialogue, led by a disabled character, about the minutiae of her daily life.
This is leading us to question whether the more words disabled people authentically communicate in mainstream spaces, the less believable the message is perceived.
Instead of asking a question to Maltesers, we frame our question to the viewer. Who are you more inclined to believe? Us? Or someone who speaks for us?
*Ads from the Maltesers 2016 Paralympic disability campaign will be tagged ‘SuperCrip’ due their orgins and funding. Mars Chocolate won Channel 4’s ‘Superhumans Wanted’ competition, which offered brands and advertisers the chance to win £1m of the broadcaster’s airtime to develop a creative idea that puts disability and diversity at the heart of the campaign.