Seems pretty harmless to me, just a poorly shot slice of life that was supposed to resonate with the female audience.
But that's not how one blogger, Melissa Spiers (guest posting on ReelGirl) took it. She flew into a very angry rant about the fetishization of the woman's bum and the possibility that we were supposed to imagine the Chapstick shoved up it.
Here's a sample:
"But why would anyone visit my online world, anyway? Don’t we go online to experience an alternate reality? Chapstick! Woman’s Ass! Have you ever gone through a day without being bombarded with any sexist messages or images? Some of them are right out there, nothing subliminal about them – see exhibits A through Z on the Rap Lyrics floor. Lost. Chapstick. Ass. Others try to be subtle and sneaky (please take the audio tour in the Museum of Advertising). Unfortunately, the use of women’s bodies to sell everything from beer to books has become so pervasive that we almost don’t see it anymore. Hey, I bet I know where the Chapstick is!"
She is, of course, fully entitled to be angry at advertising (and other pop culture content) for continuing to treat woman as sex objects to promote sales or sexy brand associations. I just didn't see it here. I saw the portrayal as an attempt at humour by showing the model in an awkward and inelegant position — one that I often see (especially) women make self-deprecating comments about when they find themselves accidentally so positioned in public. It never occurred to me to think that the Chapstick was in her rectum. Why would I?
Now, Chapstick could have easily defended its intent (if I got it right) and agreed to disagree with its detractors who (it cannot be stressed enough) they invited to "be heard" at the campaign Facebook page.
But foolishly, they deleted all negative comments. So Reel Girl set up a protest FB page where they display screencaps of user comments before deletion.
A company deleting comments from its own Facebook page isn't censorship — Chapstick has no obligation to provide a public forum, and users are free to take their complaints elsewhere, as they have done. And in the grand scheme of things, the ad that started the whole controversy isn't that offensive. What Chapstick is guilty of is really bad PR. When Dr. Pepper issued a much more objectionable ad, at least they allowed customers to sound off about it on their Facebook page. By deleting negative comments, Chapstick is sending the message that they can't handle criticism. And especially if you're encouraging people to use social media to talk about your brand, that's a stupid message to send.
Seriously, seriously dumb. You lose at social media, whoever manages the Chapstick page.
UPDATE: Digging way down on the page, I found some un-deleted comments: