Sesame Street has a message for Mately: Keep Bert and Ernie off of your inappropriate ad campaign! The likeness of the classic Sesame Street characters has been used without permission by the company, which sells an app for at-home HIV/STD testing kits. A Sesame Workshop spokesperson told TMZ that Mately illegally used the likeness of the Sesame Street icons in the ad campaign for the testing kits.
The ad featuring Bert and Ernie makes it seem like the Sesame Street characters may have contracted HIV or an STD. In the ad, the Muppet BFFs are looking at the results of an at-home STD test, and Bert tells his pal he has nothing to worry about and that “everything is positive.”
— Report UK (@ReportUK) May 4, 2016
“The Mately ad is an unauthorized, unlicensed use of our characters,” a Sesame Street rep told TMZ. “We will be contacting Mately and the appropriate parties with a cease and desist letter instructing them to take this down.”
TMZ posted an update that says Mately has now removed the Sesame Street characters from the controversial ad campaign. The testing kit company insists that there was no intent to “tarnish the Sesame Street brand,” but one has to wonder what the company was thinking by using characters from the iconic preschool TV show to advertise such a product.
While Sesame Street is indeed a kiddie show, this is not the first time Bert and Ernie have made headlines for sex-related topics. The classic characters, who have been roommates ever since Sesame Street debuted in 1969, have long been the subject of an urban legend that they are gay lovers.
In the 1990s, a North Carolina Pentecostal minister, Reverend Joseph Chambers, even attempted to get the Sesame Street characters banned from television under the state’s anti-sodomy laws. But amid the controversy, Sesame Workshop CEO Gary Knell soon squashed the gay rumors about the bachelor besties, according to the Yale Daily News.
“They are not gay, they are not straight, they are puppets,” Knell said of the Sesame Street roomies. “They don’t exist below the waist.”
According to TV Guide, in 2011, the rumors were still rampant, so Sesame Street even released a statement that reiterated that Bert and Ernie don’t have any sexual orientation at all.
Of course, way before the unauthorized Mately ad, Sesame Street characters have been featured in dozens of past ad campaigns for products that are more appropriate for the show’s target fan base. Earlier this year, Cookie Monster starred in an adorable Apple ad in which he talked to Siri as he used his iPhone 6 to set a timer while he baked cookies.
But decades before that, a prehistoric looking (and sounding) Cookie Monster appeared in a commercial for Munchos. The late 1960s ad had the cookie-loving monster chowing down on the potato crisps in lieu of his signature sweet treats.
Ernie, Elmo, and Big Bird all teamed up with Rosie O’Donnell and Penny Marshall to sing about a kid-friendly Sesame Street clothing line for Kmart in the 1990s, and who can forget the Muppets-themed Toyota commercial with Terry Crews that played during the 2014 Super bowl?
But while the classic Sesame Street characters have been used in ad campaigns in the past, it is now clear that the show will never be brought to you by the letters S, T, and D. Or H, I, and V.
Take a look at the video below to see more about Sesame Street icons Bert and Ernie’s unauthorized Mately spot.
[Photo by Matthew Simmons/Getty Images]