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7-Up pulls TV ad after civil rights groups cry foul over prison rape joke

LONDON - 7-Up has bowed to pressure in the US from more than 100 human rights groups and pulled a national television ad that jokes about prison rape.

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The ad, created by Young & Rubicam, features a take on the old "don't drop the soap" joke. It shows the "7-Up guy", the brand's regular spokesman, in a prison handing out cans of 7-Up to prisoners behind bars. When he drops a can, he looks at the camera with a smile and says: "I'm not picking that up."

At the end of the ad, 7-Up guy sits in a cell with a prisoner who has his arm around him. He says: "When you drink 7-Up, everyone is your friend… OK, that's enough being friends." Then, as the screen fades to black, he says: "Hey, where are you going?"

The campaign to have the ad taken off TV was led by Stop Prisoner Rape (SPR), which described it as "perpetuating the kind of callousness that allows sexual abuse to continue in prisons virtually unchecked".

Philippa Dworkin, vice-president of corporate communications for Dr Pepper/7-Up, told SPR on Friday it will take the ad off the air after the protests. However, the ad was still available to view on the 7-Up website at the time of writing.

The ad had been running for nearly two months before 7-Up contacted TV stations to advise them to stop airing the commercial.

Laura Stemple, executive director of SPR, said: "We're very glad to hear that 7-Up has decided to stop sending out the message that it's OK to laugh about rape when it involves people in prison. No corporation would make jokes about rape outside the context of prison."

7-Up has been repositioning itself to a younger audience after seeing sales fall by around 7% in 2001. It has launched a series of ads featuring 7-Up guy, played by Godfrey, a comedian. 7-Up is the number eight soft drink brand in the US.

Last week, 7-Up in Ireland faced the prospect of pulling its £475,000 World Cup campaign, when Ireland captain Roy Keane was sent home after telling the team's manager, Mick McCarthy, to "stick it up your bollocks". He was due to appear in an ad campaign and make appearances for the brand.

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