Klondike sells Kandy Bars with clever naughty nurse stereotype
September 2014 — Unilever introduced its new Klondike Kandy Bars with a television ad featuring a sexy candy bar “nurse” whose seduction of a Klondike ice cream bar “patient” ostensibly led to the birth of the new product. Although they seem to have stopped airing this month, the 1970s-themed “Nurse Candy” ads reportedly aired nationally in the U.S. over 5,700 times. In the 30-second spot, the nurse character wears a sexy nurse outfit complete with short white skirt and high heels. She seduces her patient right after spotting him in an examination room, purring, “I know how to make you feel better!” The ad then cuts to a modern live action scene in which a man seems to have proposed the scenario to his wife (it appears) to explain the genesis of the new product. The woman says she is “pretty sure that’s not how they’re made.” But in the end an announcer assures us that the Klondike Kandy Bar is the “best ice cream bar ever conceived.” Yes, it’s an animated character, and the outfit Candy wears is not the naughtiest we’ve seen. On the other hand, the ad does not just feature a standard sexy nurse image, it also clearly implies that the “nurse” has actually seduced a patient practically on sight and had a baby with him. Even “jokes” have been shown to affect attitudes, particularly when directed at disempowered groups. This one reinforces the frequent association with female sexuality that has plagued nursing since even before the 1970s, degrading it in the public consciousness and undermining real nurses’ claims to adequate resources and respect. Please join us in urging Unilever to avoid the naughty nurse in the future and to make amends to the nursing profession.
The Klondike Kandy Bar ad is actually titled “Nurse Candy.” It has reportedly aired nationally more than 5,700 times, most recently on September 14, 2014, during an episode of AMC’s Breaking Bad, according to the iSpot.tv website. Klondike is a Unilever product.
The ad begins with an animated scene, in what seems to be a health care facility examining room. There is retro feel to the scene, and as it unfolds we hear a 1970s-style funk-soul groove. A male Original Klondike bar with cartoon character eyes and limbs sits on an examining bed / table. A female character opens the door to the room. She looks somewhat like a Snickers Bar in shape and in her wrapper lettering, which says “CANDY BAR,” but the top of the bar vaguely resembles a head, with large eyes, and Candy sports a white nurses’ cap with a red cross on it. At the bottom, she wears an above-the-knee white nurses’ skirt, and she has thin black legs and white high heels. Candy carries a clipboard, presumably to record vital health information. Klondike’s eyes widen; he is attracted to her. Candy looks at him and blinks seductively.
Klondike: I feel terrible!
Candy (throwing her clipboard away and approaching): I know how to make you feel better!
They move toward each other in slow motion, but just as they seem about to embrace, we cut to a young live action couple talking to each other in a present day supermarket.
Man (with great enthusiasm, holding a box of Klondike Kandy Bars): So what do you think?!
Woman (seeming exasperated and/or amused): I’m pretty sure that’s not how they’re made.
So it seems that the man has dreamed up the animated scene to explain how Klondike Kandy Bars came about–the result of sex between an ice cream bar and a traditional candy bar. Then the ad cuts to a somewhat more realistic portrayal of the new bars being made, with the accompanying text “Klondike ice cream meets candy bar.”
Announcer: Klondike ice cream meets candy bar. The best ice cream bar ever conceived.
Ha ha, “conceived.” The spot ends with an image of boxes of the product in its several varieties.
Apparently, the naughty nurse never gets old, just retro, especially when you can give her a little different spin, like merging her with junk food. And here we don’t just have a nurse in a sexy outfit, but a nurse named Candy who seduces her patient the instant she sees him.
Her one line, “I know how to make you feel better,” explicitly links her nursing work with providing sexual services to patients, as if she is a clinical sex worker. Evidently Candy knows how to write, or else she would have no use for that clipboard. But this is not a presentation of nursing that says “educated health professional with life-saving skills” so much as it does “hospital prostitute.”
This is obviously a fantasy scenario, but research has shown that even jokes can influence how people view others. And jokes have long been a common way to express and reinforce contempt for disempowered groups. Of course most people in the United States don’t think nurses actually go to work looking to seduce patients or physicians. But in the aggregate, many decades of naughty nurse imagery does degrade the profession, fusing the public sense of it with female sexuality. Real nurses are college-educated health professionals and they are not limited to one gender. But they still struggle to get the respect and resources they need to save patients. They confront understaffing and sexual abuse on a regular basis. Ads like this do not help.
Please join us in asking Unilever to find other ways to sell its products, and to make amends to the nursing profession, perhaps with a donation to nursing residency programs, which currently receive a tiny fraction of the resources spent on physician residencies.
The ad has been off the air since 2014 so we are not launching a letter-writing campaign at this time. But please feel free to write to Klondike at firstname.lastname@example.org and please cc us at email@example.com so we can follow your thoughts and concerns. Please let us know if you see this or any other ads of concern at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!