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Bounce Away: "Sheets or Bar" Ads for Every Stereotype

Let's talk about Bounce. Specifically, let's talk about the "Sheets or Bar" campaign, the only ad series I've seen lately that can compete with the obnoxiousness of Virgin Mobile's stalker humor. The concept? Actors pretend to be Bounce customers and explain whether they use individual dryer sheets or an in-machine "bar" device that releases a sheet with every load.

Compelling idea, right? No, I'm not sure either. Bounce is obviously hoping we'll identify with one or more of these women—yes, they're all women; I'll get back to that—à la "real people"-type advertising. Let's begin:

Voiceover: Sheets or bar? How do you get your Bounce?

Woman: I'm a sheets girl. But I don't just put them in the dryer. I put 'em in shoes, freshen up the car, put 'em in the closet... girl, I been puttin' 'em for as loooong as I can remember!

Voiceover: How do you get YOUR Bounce?

Woman (offscreen): Sheets. I put 'em!

Ouch. Charmingly titled "I Put 'Em," this is far and away the series' most popular edition on YouTube, with over five times as many views on the campaign's account as its comrades. Predictably, the comments (why do I even look?) are rife with Derailing for Dummies-esque defensiveness against the few people who mentioned finding something about the ad slightly offensive or insensitive.

Bounce's most obvious message here is that stereotypes of black women use dryer sheets, because they're sooo sassy, but there's more going on. First of all, this ad's character is the only one to mention uses for dryer products outside of the laundry. Considering a major function of dryer sheets, and Bounce's in particular, is to add fragrance, I don't think it's a stretch to say something unpleasant is indicated about the character's smell. There is, after all, no other apparent reason for her sheets' field trips. (Her shoes? What?) She appears to be at a garage sale, which is arguably the most noticeable background setting in the series and is heavy with class implications. Then, there's the drink in her hand, held carefully while she gesticulates enthusiastically with her other arm. It could be punch, yes, but the neon color and fruit garnishes scream "cocktail."

Let's look at the other side of the heated (heh) sheets-or-bar debate with a video titled "Hospital:"

Voiceover: Sheets or bar? How do you get your Bounce?

Woman: Well, my husband's at home with the laundry, so it's a good thing I'm a bar person, because I know the laundry'll be fresh. The rest of the house? [Baby farts.] Exactly.

Voiceover: How do you get YOUR Bounce?

Woman (offscreen): Love the bar.

Again, it's hard to know where to start with the wrongness of these 18 seconds. Men are assumed to be incompetent slobs, to the point where the character doesn't even say her husband's not good at laundry; she assumes we'll take it for granted by virtue of his sex. (Gender essentialism across the board seems to be a favorite Bounce trope if one looks at their past commercials too.) Then there's the angle of idealized motherhood. Despite just having given birth to twins, whose peaceful bodies she ably holds herself, the woman looks healthy and well-groomed. Lavish bouquets and cards are posed in the background to signify that she is well-loved not just as a parent but as a peer, and that her friends likely have cash to spare.

And the hospital gown? Pink. Naturally.

The series continues in this manner, with a sheet-loving control freak whose yoga "me-time" makes her a bad mother, and a "forgetter" whose Bounce bar makes her slightly less incompetent at life (but not at buttoning her sweater). All appear fairly young and conventionally attractive, and, aside from the star of "I Put 'Em," white. It's also worth noting that where the "I Put 'Em" star's line was "I'm a sheets girl," the speaker in "Yoga" says "I'm a sheets woman" and "Hospital" deals with a self-professed "bar person" (emphasis mine), adding to the first woman's infantilization. While "I Put 'Em" is the most glaring example, Bounce clearly intends us to laugh at all of these women, except with "Hospital" when we're supposed to laugh at an unseen man.

Which leads me to a fundamental issue with this campaign: They're all women. Considering that most of us, across gender lines, wear clothes, I find this throwback choice deeply unnecessary.

Then again, maybe this is related to the ending refrain, in which "BOUNCE" is written across a pair of breasts. Even with laundry, advertisers treat women's bodies as a joke.

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Comments

11 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Wow

Let's not forget that the woman doing yoga comes across as your stereotypical self-important yuppie style soccer mom, complete with being blond and skinny.

These commercials are beyond ridiculous. I can't stand commercials for cleaning supplies because they always show women happily cleaning up the total devastation their husband and children wreak on their meticulous houses. I want to know what combination of speed and Xanax these TV moms are on.

Also, I'd just like to say, in my house my husband does all the laundry and all the cooking. He does both of these household chores far better than I. In fact most couples I know have a 50/50 split of the household chores. Advertisers need to start appealing to men more and break away from these cliches.

Sheets? Bar? Oh my poor feeble feminine mind....

You mean I'm supposed to care about laundry softner? To this day I'm not sure what its pupose is. Maybe they should explain THAT in the commercial.

Indeed.

I've never understood (or used) these types of products either... but if I ever try one, it won't be Bounce brand! *blows raspberry*

Great title, by the way.

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Re: 2nd commercial

I absolutely despise that commercial, as well as the bunch of other annoying "me-Tarzan you-Jane" gender normative commercials that portray husbands as cavemen who can't handle simple tasks like laundry, cleaning up after themsevles, and child rearing. Seriously, I don't know if it's more insulting to women or to men!

Also

I think the implication in the "I Put 'Em" spot that the black woman uses dryer sheets as the cheap version of shoe deodorizers/air fresheners/clothes sachets is also a race and class dig. I find it offensive that the black woman is the one chosen to highlight alternative uses (which are pretty widely known) of dryer sheets, as it pokes fun at and stereotypes someone who is basically being resourceful as being cheap/penny-pinching. The more I look at the stills from that commercial, I'm inclined to think it's actually her garage sale: the purse is functioning as a money belt, and the "cocktail" implies she's in a comfortable home environment. (AND there is a f*ing incongruous 80's boombox for sale - REALLY??? Fortunately, it's the most blatant item for sale that I can see.) Added up, the fact that she's having a garage sale with relatively inexpensive and outdated items, making her own drinks (compare to SATC-style white women drinking cosmos at a bar), and talking about ways to multitask dryer sheets, paints a very disturbing picture of who we're supposed to think this woman is.

Excellent points.

Thanks, Cakes!

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You guys really need to sit

You guys really need to sit down, look at your lives and think about why on earth you have time to care about things like these. Im a black male and I wasn't offended by either of those commercials whic you all claim stereotype males and blacks. Honestly? I couldn't stop laughing at re I put em commercial. Andthose of you who are saying cleaning commercials suck beause they all use women.. who do you think buys most of th cleani.g products? They use women because they want to appeal to their biggest customer..women. andeven in home improvement stores ads you see women doing carpentry and such more than men. Get over your pretentious attitdes and get a damn life!

Agreed. I'm white (only

Agreed. I'm white (only stating this because I said I agreed with this commenter and since he stated he was black I'll just state the only thing I can't agree with since I'm not black) and don't see how portraying men as feeble morons through the stereotypes really hurts them any. Stereotypes are used for comedic purposes all the time, which these commercials seem to have some intent of, as well as the many other times I see that portrayal of men.

Seriously though, when watching these commercials how do people even have a chance to notice half the things people are pointing out here? I don't think I noticed hardly any of these things pointed out here, so how can they have any implications if you don't notice them? Seriously some flowers in the background are saying this woman has friends with money? Because flowers are so damn expensive and not cliche in a hospital setting right? Are you insinuating that maybe if it was not a white woman then there would be no flowers and maybe she'd just be handcuffed to the hospital bed?

People actually seem to expect realistic portrayals of people in every ad, its as if 1 ad that doesn't fit someone's expectations of what they want portrayed of certain demographics can suddenly be blown out of proportion. I understand this is not just 1 ad, but if it was there would still be someone complaining about it, likely still the same people but if not someone else would. If there's 10% ads with a majority demographic (if we look at race, white, since this is an ad in America) in which they're portrayed maybe somewhat negatively there will likely be less complaining about it than if there is 10% of ads with a minority race negatively portrayed (10% of ads in which that race has appeared in, so 90% would not be negatively portrayed of that race) there will likely end up being more complaining about it despite the fact that each is getting equal treatment. That is just what I perceive through personal experience. Obviously those numbers aren't factual and are used for example purposes.

The Commercials are Fairly Inappropriate

These commercials are actually quite off-color; Bounce chose to STRONGLY archetype each character into an unfortunate personality. Bad move, in my opinion. I'm not offended, but it's because I know that this is the world of which I reside. I just found this site because I was trying to show one of my friends the blatant ridiculousness of the "I Put 'Em" character. FYI, I'm black, 23, female, and a med student. (I do understand how critical one's ethnicity is in this county)

Bounce re-shot this commericial

I came across your blog post because I Googled this commercial after hearing it again, and being pretty certain it was a new actress. I can't find the original video anywhere, but I've read some blogs allude to the original actress's size and drink, which is obviously missing from this new video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8gSRqcmN3A

I'm incredibly offended by all the implications of this re-shoot. 1) Bounce used a smaller, and if I recall correctly lighter-skinned actress for the new commercial; 2) they kept the setting and script the same, only removing the drink, so it's still pretty darn offensive; and 3) they kept the setting and the script the same and recycled the commercial just with a new actress--did they think people wouldn't remember or notice? do all black women look the same?

I find this pretty problematic, hopefully some attention can be brought to it.

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