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LOVE AND ADVERTISING

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Once again, feminists are roaring, Corporate America is nonapologizing and everyone else is wondering exactly what is going on in both camps.

This month, Pepsi released an iPhone application for its Amp Energy Drink called "Amp Up Before You Score." The tool - which is an appropriate description in both the formal and informal senses of the word - feeds men the information designed to help them have sex with women. Think of it as a cyber Cyrano de Bergerac, with all apologies to the original 17th-century poet.

Meet a girl who's gone through a bad breakup? Pepsi will help you find an ice cream parlor to take her to, so she feels you really care. Want to convince twin sisters to get a little romantic (and incestuous)? The application thoughtfully supplies groin, hip and back exercises, so you don't pull any muscles during your conquest.

And even better, after you've bagged 'em, you get to tag 'em! Just to make sure you don't forget your evening, and that you can relate your activities with any and everyone, there's a virtual bedpost function to publish the woman's name, location and commentary on the event. Feel free to share on Twitter and Facebook, too!

Of course, the beverage's ad campaign has never been for the ladies. Guys' guy and racecar driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the official spokesman, as well as athletes for extreme sports such as BMX and snowboarding, which are heavily male-dominated. And Amp's Web site features a "Yo Mama Battle," in which you're encouraged to "Take your best shot at your friend's mom." (When I tried to give it a go, the site was experiencing "technical difficulties." I guess it would be too much to hope that the difficulties stem from an awakening conscience.)

So, being the curious woman I am (some would call me a busybody, or Nosy Nancy), I downloaded this application and tested it out on a few women I know. I determined what type each woman was, from the 24 archetypes provided - including "dancer," "military chick," "women's studies major" and "married" - tried a few lines on them, and asked what they thought.

And that's where my first problems came up. How do you pigeonhole a woman into a certain category, anyway? One of my "test subjects" is a successful career woman who likes to splurge on expensive clothes, read good books and enjoys a night out on the town. How do you reconcile the "businesswoman," "princess," "bookworm" and "sorority girl" aspects of her personality, and use one trait to define and then woo her? (If it can be called wooing, that is.)

To be honest, we all had a good laugh about many of the features. Really, you're going to tell an "Indie" girl that the best independent album of all time was a Motley Crue record? Do you think a "bookworm" is going to swoon at a collection of SAT words such as lugubrious, pulchritudinous and loquacious, even with the handy pronunciation guide, if you can't use them correctly in context? And that map to the nearest country club won't be that impressive, once your "princess" figures out you don't have a membership.

Yet with all the laughs, there was no getting around the fact that it made us all a bit uncomfortable. And I wasn't able to find one male colleague who liked the idea of his daughter having to deal with this nonsense.

Then again, I didn't meet anyone who was willing to ban Pepsi from their household, either. Including myself. On the flip side, there are quite a few who have proclaimed solidarity with their much maligned brethern, Pepsico. Inc.

On Wednesday, an Amp Energy Drink fan said the company needed to stay strong. "Don't give in to the whiners ... and pull your iPhone app," Facebook user Jason wrote. "It's time to stop letting these members of the Political Correctness gestapo call all the shots. You came up with a gutsy and innovative ad campaign, now stick with it."

Because in today's world, it's the multi-billion dollar global corporations who are truly victimized. Forget about those women you meet on the street everyday, many of whom struggle to find a job, care for their families or simply be treated as human beings. They should just be happy anyone's willing to hit on them at all!

Look, fellas. It's not that women don't have good senses of humor. We just don't like being the butts of corporate jokes. And being surrounded by a bunch of corporate stooges doesn't make us feel all that great, either.

-Nancy Johnston

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