Dear Joe Wees (VP Advertising at Universal)

grinch ad compaign celiac

Hey Joe,

Do you know there are now two great songs titled “Hey Joe”? Of course, there is the classic Jimi Hendrix version. And then the recent one by Caamp. Awesome song. The last line of the song goes:

Hey Joe, I got one more question
How does it feel, to spit that love into a microphone?

But since you’re the bozo in charge of the latest Grinch ad campaign, where you make it more difficult for those with celiac disease to be taken seriously (see above image), I’ll change the verbiage up for you a bit:

Hey Joe, I got one more question
How does it feel, to spit that hate into an ad campaign?

Ya see Joe…I’m in a transitional stage. I’ve been calling shit out like this for the past 7 years. And I’m tired of it. Tired of people like you in the media who think gluten is still a fucking joke. And I know it’s tough for ad guys like you to be original. Hell…this is the fourth Grinch movie. Kinda hard to be original in advertising when the best you can come up with is remakes. So after 7 years, I’m tired of dealing with guys like you. Guys who take the easy way out. So rather than rant, I’ll educate.

So Joe…you ever hear of celiac disease? It’s an autoimmune disease that affects almost 1% of the population. And you know what the culprit of the disease is? Yep…it’s gluten. It’s absolute poison to our body. When somebody with celiac disease eats gluten (i.e. when someone “puts it in our smoothies”), their small intestine gets damaged; so damaged that the body can no longer absorb nutrients. And what happens when the body can’t absorb nutrients Joe? Here are some fun results from the Mayo Clinic:

  • Anemia, usually resulting from iron deficiency
  • Loss of bone density (osteoporosis) or softening of bone (osteomalacia)
  • Itchy, blistery skin rash (dermatitis herpetiformis)
  • Damage to dental enamel
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Headaches and fatigue
  • Nervous system injury, including numbness and tingling in the feet and hands, possible problems with balance, and cognitive impairment
  • Joint pain
  • Reduced functioning of the spleen (hyposplenism)
  • Acid reflux and heartburn

In children under 2 years old, typical signs and symptoms of celiac disease include:

  • Vomiting
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Swollen belly
  • Failure to thrive
  • Poor appetite
  • Muscle wasting

Older children may experience:

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Weight loss
  • Irritability
  • Short stature
  • Delayed puberty
  • Neurological symptoms, including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning disabilities, headaches, lack of muscle coordination and seizures

jokes about glutenAnd Joe…it’s been a tough ride for those with celiac disease since “gluten free” has hit mainstream. We have been on the receiving end of a barrage of jokes at our expense. But Joe…I gotta tell you…having celiac disease kinda sucks. There is really nothing funny about it. And I know what you’re thinking Joe. “But Dude…I’m making fun of those who jump on the gluten-free bandwagon. Not those with a disease.” Well here’s my question to you Joe. How can the general public know the difference?

I just got an email from someone whose mother and aunt both have celiac disease, suffers each time he eats gluten, but doesn’t want to go to the doctor. Do you know one of the reasons he does not want to get diagnosed? Here’s what he told me:

“If I get diagnosed, I don’t want to tell people I know because I don’t think they’ll believe me.”

Can you imagine not wanting to tell people you have an autoimmune disease? Can you imagine how many undiagnosed celiacs are walking around thinking gluten is a joke, when it’s actually killing them inside.

So look Joe…I don’t expect a response. I know you don’t give a shit. But maybe…just maybe…next time you run an ad campaign, consider the list of symptoms above and just leave us out of it.

We didn’t ask for this disease. All we ask is that you respect it.


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76 thoughts on “Dear Joe Wees (VP Advertising at Universal)”

  1. You are awesome! Thank you for speaking out and all your hard work. My sis passed away, 6 yrs ago, from complications with CD. She didn’t know. There wasn’t as much information. She didn’t know every little morsel was affecting her. She didn’t know her body was reacting to other food sensitivities. She didn’t know she was malnourished and ultimately dying. She was 49. Thank you for speaking out to all those who don’t know. Hopefully, they are listening!

    1. I’m really, really sorry Erin. I get a lot of shit from the community when I speak up like this, but if I can save one life…help one person…it’s worth it. I hope people are listening too.

    2. My condolences. My father passed away from EATL, a type of cancer almost always associated with CD 36 years ago. My father was never diagnosed correctly (had all the same symptoms as me) , never treated correctly and died because of it. At the time, nobody in the US knew what CD was. Sadly, knowledge of CD is better now, but still has a long way to go. You’d think that in the information age people would be better informed, but they are not. A lot of willful ignorance and a lot of misinformation out there. I try to educate people when I can, but I have alienated some of them. Some people just don’t care about others.

  2. I am in tears seeing this, having been diagnosed in 2012, and being VERY strick and careful I am getting glutin somewhere.

    1. I was surprised to find that my old cookware — my wok specifically — was giving me gluten, even though I had scrubbed it down. I replaced it along with all the pots and pans I had used prior to going gluten free. I gave them away to non-celiac friends.

      I also discovered that the grilled chicken that I was getting at Wendy’s was contaminated. One day I noticed that Wendy’s had removed it from their gluten free menu. They realized it was being contaminated on their cutting boards!

      Now I’m doing much better. I hope this helps!

    2. You may be also sick from something else. I was. It was another 16 years after my celiac diagnosis before I was diagnosed with Sjogren’s.

      Everyone else got better, and I was really strict with my diet; cooking at home, never eating out, not allowing gluten in the house because my kids would trail it everywhere. My antibody panels got better and better but I was still very sick. It’s important to remember that we’re far more likely to get yet another autoimmune disease because of celiac disease damage allowing digestive matter into the stomach cavity.

      And yes, had to get rid of my wonderfully seasoned wok, iron skillets, wooden utensils, dish cloths, dish towels. I even changed out my ancient diswasher just in case. I still stayed sick. I was also diagnosed with Graves’ disease a few months later (another autoimmune disease).

  3. My daughter has Celiacs and seeing this makes me so angry for her. We spend 99% of our day protecting her from cross contamination. Seeing that someone, a cartoon she desperately wants to see, wants to intentionally harm her. It’s like saying I put alcohol in an alcoholics drink. Why would you want to harm someone?!?

        1. Ok, so I see the humor and still don’t like it- a piss-poor attempt at making a joke without thinking how others would react to it. It’s happened here too (CT) and yeah, maybe it’s funny for a split second and then I think of my many members with CD and how much they suffer, I wonder how the Grinch (Joe) would like a little rat poison in his coffee? Now go explain this to a child who is doubled over in pain because some kid at lunch poured cookie crumbs on his sandwich…

      1. How would you explain this “funny” sign to a newly diagnosed little kid who is struggling to be as GF as he can? Who is scared of the very thing the Grinch just said he did? Who knows if he has any gluten, he’ll spend the night puking and crying because his tummy hurts so bad? Sorry, I’m just not seeing the humor.

      2. You go ahead and laugh until someone shakes their knife over your dinner at a charity event because its FUNNY. Happened to me and it was humiliating and not funny at all. While people laughed I had to find the servers and explain what happened. then I had to explain to all of those around me that no, I can’t just pick the crumbs out. I don’t want to be the butt of jokes, thank you very much.
        How about slipping someone with a peanut allergy some peanuts…also funny? Giving a diabetic a dose of sugar? Funny?

        I have a fantastic sense of humor, but I don’t use it to laugh at people’s medical issues.

    1. It’s not about sense of humor, it’s about making light of a disease that is serious and so very few people take it seriously. This is not going to help people understand the reality of this condition. And it’s all good and fine if you as a grown adult find this funny but when my son gets sick because people think this illness is a JOKE and I have to watch my child suffer in pain it’s NOT VERY HUMOROUS!!!! Life isn’t just about you!

    2. Just to be clear because I think my sense of humour may be off here: if the ad said “I put peanuts in your smoothie”, would it still be funny? If yes, ok my sense of humour is broken I guess. If not, then what you’re saying is immediate death via poisoning = not funny, slow death via poisoning = funny?
      Appreciate the humour tune up. Thx

      1. Love this analogy, Naomi! So true- as long as people don’t see us die in front of their eyes in an anaphylaxic shock, it’s just a joke.
        And it’s not funny at all. It’s hurtful to have our diseases as the butt of a joke. When do diabetics get made fun of for their autoimmune disorder and their dietary restrictions? Never.
        I’m not cool with the double standard. Sorry.

    3. You must not have a child who has Celiac. Totally different. I don’t have it but my daughter was extremely sick from 15 months old until 22 when she was diagnosed. I accidentally glutened her once and she threw up around 10 times an hour for 3 hours! We are terrified to go out to eat in public because of this.

    4. I remember the day the waitress told me that she had decided to teach me a lesson by not making my meal gluten free as I had requested — as was advertised on the restaurant’s menu. She said right to my face, “Gluten free is bullshit!”

      It was so funny! I laughed so hard I vomited all night. And for the next 2 months I couldn’t walk down steps. And then my building had to be evacuated and the elevators couldn’t be used. That was so funny and painful as I hobbled down six floors.

      Yeah, that kind of made me lose my sense of humor. It’s my own fault I don’t find using people’s illnesses to sell products funny. It could be because it also makes other people not take our illness seriously. Or I just don’t have a sense of humor. One or the other.

    5. This billboard is SO funny — it makes a threat aimed directly at those who need to live a gluten free existence. Anyone else couldn’t care less. Why would OTHERS care if someone put gluten in their smoothie? Yes, it’s aimed directly at us.

      I had someone do this to me at a restaurant… they gave me the regular meal rather than the gluten free meal I had ordered off the menu. I caught it on the first bite and asked my server about it. She said to me, “Gluten free is bullshit!” when she confessed that she thought that we “fad” dieters couldn’t tell the difference.

      What gave her the idea that we’re all “special snowflakes”? Crap like this billboard? I think it was those articles that said NCGS didn’t exist or programs like Disney’s “Jessie” or Party City’s commercials. But whatever it was, it came from people who think our disease is a joke and that we should just all “lighten up” and go along with it.

      Well, I was sick for months from that one bite. I couldn’t walk down steps without excruciating pain. And as luck would have it, had to evacuate from my building at work multiple times. It such a fun time trying to hobble down six flights of stairs. How inconsiderate of me to take to long to get out of my building during a bomb threat.

      Yeah, that’s when I lost my sense of humor about billboards like this one.

    6. Joy At last, someone who isn’t a sensitive snowflake. I’m sick and tired of people thinking the world owes them everything and should constantly consider their feelings. People should laugh at themselves more. My son has lifelong severe Crohns that food avoidance doesn’t resolve of course, yet can laugh about it and has an intelligent rational calm approach to everything he suffers. Never once does he expect or demand that people pussyfoot around him and certainly doesn’t wear that invisible “I have a disease, I’m special” badge that so many people do. I was diagnosed with my first AI condition 50 yrs ago and have collected more diseases and disorders as time rolled on, yet catch me demanding that the world owes me? Never. Catch me laughing about them? Often.

      1. Show me one comment in this thread where someone demanded something from the world? We just want our disease to be treated seriously. The joke was immature and insensitive. Not wanting to be insulted is not being a snowflake. In gnereal, it’s just not cool to make fun of other people’s diseases, infirmities, illness, disability, etc. If you like that kind of humor then you are an insensitive, thoughtless person or just another asshole troll. Your choice.

  4. I applaud your efforts and hope you do get a response! My 13 year old celiac would be appalled and insulted to see thos ads. I now need to come up with an excuse for why this ad campaign exists….or just tell him it’s just plain ignorance. I think I’ll go with the ignorance reason. Thank you for bringing attention to this. Please inform your community if you do get a response. Thanks again GD!

  5. This is done to get people upset so they go after the movie like the Allergy community did with Peter Rabbit. It gives them great exposure and free advertising. That’s the goal of this, please don’t give them that.

    1. I do agree actually – I think they’re not clueless. They’re marketing savvy and they know: bad press > no press. That’s what you do when you make a bad movie.

  6. This is incredibly sad to see.
    Living life this way is no joke.
    My children’s health us no joke.

    Someone needs their heart to grow a few sizes. How dare you be okay with this ad.

  7. I think the ad is stupid. Imagine what people would say if it said something like, “I replaced your heart medicine with a placebo.”

    1. EXACTLY!!!!!!!

      And for the others saying we have no sense of humor. Maybe you’re right…maybe after 11 years of this kind of crap, my sense of humor regarding people perpetuating the idea that everyone who can’t eat gluten is some kind of crazy, high maintenance, attention-seeking hypochondriac has died. I’ll own that my humor on that has died or maybe never existed. No, I don’t laugh at that and I won’t be peer pressured into feeling like I should. If fellow celiacs or non celiac gluten intolerants want to joke among each other about toilet catastrophes, crappy food, restaurant debacles and that kind of thing….then I’ll laugh. Because we’ve been there, it’s not coming from a place of derision, and I agree it’s important to have a sense of humor in life to lighten up the bad things. But, sorry, I’m not about accepting being mocked or being used as the butt of a joke 100000000x by unoriginal fools.

      AND Gluten Dude is right on all the other points. Nobody knows it’s only for the “fad” people…these kinds of jokes make people laugh at the gluten free diet regardless. And, I also 100% agree and have said to people in my own circles that this joke is SO unoriginal by now. Low-hanging fruit. Hey, let’s jump on the bandwagon and pick the easiest thing to make fun of that every other unoriginal comedian has made fun of. Wow, so creative… *eye roll*

    1. I couldn’t agree more. Yes, the disease isn’t funny… at all. I have it. But this billboard makes me hate the Grinch, and that’s the point.

  8. Funny how one billboard changed completely how I feel about The Grinch movie. Five grandkids all planned to go with me. One has celiac disease. They all agreed they couldn’t go now. They have seen how miserable and sick she gets when a restaurant isn’t careful and she gets “glutened”. Not a joke in our family. Such poor taste and judgement.

  9. Thank you for speaking up. My son is 12 and was diagnosed just over 1 year ago. He struggles everyday with this disease. It’s heart breaking to see people poking fun of something like this. Especially on a ad geared towards children.

  10. Do you think he meant it towards people with Celiac’s? Or was he targeting the people who have actually cheapened what you are going through by their trendy diet nonsense? There’s people allergic to sunlight. Did you know that? Does that mean that every advertisement on a sunny beach is mocking them? Deliberately meant to make light (no pun intended but oh my) of their disadvantage? I’m sorry but it’s getting to the point where so many people are hurt by words. And they use big important reasons like, “it’s irresponsible…it’s making light of a serious disease.” There’s no excuse for people directly doing that. But Maybe it was just a joke at the expense of people who are kind of laughable. No, not those who suffer from Celiac’s but who claim that’s gluten is the devil between them and fitting into their Lululemon pants. Perhaps we need to shift from being victims to a more empowering role. And sometimes that means laughing at the ridiculousness of our human frailty. Sometimes it’s not all about us.

  11. This ad campaign makes me so angry . I feel like the Grinch with a red face —-my blood is boiling. Such ignorance and arrogance. I wouldn’t wish a diagnosis of celiac on the devil. My husband was diagnosed with celiac /DH at age 68. He went undiagnosed and now has refractory celiacs disease. His body will never recover from 68 years of damage from gluten and this guy thinks it’s a joke. I don’t have words for this asshole.

  12. Or for those with just gluten intolerance (like me) I just tell people that I enjoy going to the bathroom and NOT seeing blood. Ya see the difference is my large intestine instead of the small is the one that suffers. Twenty years of bloody stools, bellyaches, and finally diagnosis. So really, would he like to see blood every time he pooped?!

  13. Thank you for writing about the Grinch ad. My 5 year old who has Celiac Disease is in love with the Grinch. He understands that gluten makes him very sick. I think this ad would frighten and confuse him. This makes me so angry for him. They should take this down immediately.

    1. Funny…the people who give me a hard time about this seem to use the words “me” and “I” a lot. Guess what folks? It’s not always about you. I care about other people. You should try it sometime. Maybe you would have more empathy.

  14. Can I call you a waaabulance on this? You ok? HOW does this hurt the celiac community? Does coal in my stocking hurt the candy-eating community? Well… actually, yes on that. But come on, you’re missing the point and the humor. The Grinch is a bad person. If anything, this brings ATTENTION to the celiac community. .. and of course this post that will catch on fire (you hope), will help you sell more books. Yes, you’ll delete this comment.. I’m sure. Yes, I have celiac and a sense of humor. Best regards to your health either way.

    1. I don’t delete comments Danny. I value all opinions…though I can do without the waambulance reference. You can do better than that. One question: If the billboard said he was putting peanut in your peanut free smoothie, would you think it was funny. If no…that’s my point. If yes…we have nothing in common. Either way…I appreciate your feedback.

      1. Dude, I suspect you are being trolled. Odds are at some of these negative comments are from trolls just being trolls, trying to disrupt threads and piss people off. Ignore them.

        1. Maybe Joe Wees put out some attack dogs on me. After all, when you Google “Joe Wees”, guess which page comes up on page one??

    2. I don’t want this kind of attention to my community. Thanks anyway.
      I also don’t want jerks in my community who don’t advocate for each other. Danny Boy, Bye.

    3. The problem is no matter how you break it down, it’s not funny. It’s not a joke. But mostly, it’s not funny. A dud. Hard to believe they paid some marketing company a lot of money to come up with that.

  15. Once again, over and over a joke on is, and it’s pathetic to insult and cause harm to innocent people with health issues like celiac disease. Let’s get this guy arrested !!!!

  16. Wow. And nobody thought that this campaign execution might undermine the trust of those with dietary restrictions, preventing them from eating at any of the many food outlets found at Universal Resorts?

  17. Thank you for writing this. That ad is appalling. I have a dark sense of humor, but in my humble opinion, that’s not funny.

  18. I have a childish and sometimes inappropriate sense of humor. But I’m rather sick of gluten jokes. They’re not clever. They’re potentially harmful to a community that has enough to deal with, and is for whatever reason is seen as an easy target. Time for them to move on.

  19. This needed to be said! It’s exhausting having to mean tweet the jokes and have to defend this. From everyone. Is a disease… they wouldn’t be able to said, “I put AIDs in your smoothie” now would they?

    Thanks for sticking up for us.

  20. There’s a difference between a dark sense of humor and being crass. This is crass. As others stated, you wouldn’t joke about putting a peanut in the smoothie (although they endured years of the same torment Celiac disease now receives).

    Thank you for your continued effort the educate the masses, Gluten Dude.

  21. My 9 year old son has CD, diagnosed at age 3 (along with food allergies to other foods). He gets anxious eating…just eating, no matter where the food came from. He always asks me if the food is “safe.” It just makes me sad inside that he is this afraid of food….and now the Grinch movie! Thank you, Hollywood, for another terrific remake that puts my kid and kids like him in less safe cultural status because of poor choices on the part of supposedly responsible adults. Thank you, GlutenDude, for your awesome letter, it really says it all.

  22. Thanks so much GD!!! I also have a dark and sometimes wacky sense of humour, but these gluten jokes so predictable now. I am thinking of children who will see this. Children with celiac disease already feel left out and teased, this will not help. Yes we should laugh at everything in life, but can we have a bit of variety please?

      1. Snowflakes are beautiful and each one is unique. I have no problem with that. Obviously they’re jealous because they’re neither of those. Boring conformist bullies don’t get to be snowflakes.

  23. Curious if there has been any comment from Universal on this. It’s beyond infuriating and it’s even worse when those with CD don’t see the damage that this so-called “humor” does to those with the disease.

  24. As a someone that actually has Celiac Disease who lives in LA, I think you took the ad way out of context. This specific ad was put in one specific place in LA where people on fad, gluten-free diets outnumber people that actually have Celiac Disease probably 10,000 to 1. It was part of their hyper-local ad campaign in LA (other ads in LA about traffic, Hollywood remakes, chances of making it as an actor, housing prices, etc). They put some hyperlocal campaigns in SF, NYC, and Chicago as well that didn’tincluse this ad. In the age of the internet someone takes a picture and posts it to the internet without any context.

    I don’t think this ad is making fun of celiacs or threatening celiacs. It’s teasing people on fad diets. You have to have a sense of humor and not just outrage.

    As for the fad dieters, I’m plus/minus on them. I agree they make people think gluten isn’t serious. On the other hand, gluten-free options are available pretty much everywhere in LA, my regular chain grocery store has a half-aisle of gluten free products, and when I travel, I’m always thankful how easy it is to eat out in LA vs most of the rest of the country. I’ll probably be a little sad when the fad dieters move on to some other diet like keto, because it may go back to being more difficult to find gluten-free stuff.

  25. A year before I was diagnosed, a woman suggested I might have Celiac and urged me to be tested. I dismissed it because I thought it was an overblown fad. Turns out I had had the disease for more than 10 years!

    I didn’t know that it was making headlines because the regulations had only just become official in 2014. Most of what I encountered was skeptical or mocking, so I felt the same way.

    The “fad dieters” didn’t cause GF to become popular. It was the FDA finally making a regulation, and the food industry responding to that. It would’ve happened without fad dieters. I think it’s the food industry itself that’s pushing back. I think the high prices for GF items is part of the push back against regulation. Tapioca and rice flour isn’t hat expensive and there’s no need for expensive biotech xanthan gum, there’s plenty of cheaper gums out there, and strategies like using chickpea flour. We’re being ripped off.

  26. You can’t “tease” people on the gluten-free “fad” diet without also, at the same time, undermining the effort to advance the treatment of and livability with Celiac. Think collateral damage…please, just think more. The grave side effects from this type of media strategy are supposed to outweigh the benefits. For people with morals, and empathy for others that suffer in this world, this is a must of a consideration. Others decide to ignore the bigger picture. For ad generated revenue, and/or merely laughs “at the expense of” groups of people afflicted by something. Oh, sorry, not people, demographics.

    The ad isn’t aimed at me, or even my demographic grouping, so I need not address the issue in my own mind of whether the billboard joke ad is funny or not, or offensive or not. Or so I’m told. Or I could just thoughtlessly laugh away because The Grinch (movie studio & ad folks) put gluten in my smoothie, so I now shall watch his (their) heart(s) grow and give everything back and make it all better. Could never happen…so funny! The base metaphor doesn’t even work. The Grinch takes and then gives back and joins in the group with a joyful, and newly discovered empathetic mindset. The gluten Grinch gives you something he, and anyone else, can’t take back, and it packs a punch…hyper-locally in and around my gut.

  27. Hey Glutendude,
    Have you ever heard of anyone who shows symptom positive for CD and yet blood tests for CD come back negative? My son who is now 22-years-old, was diagnosed with a rather aggressive case of relapsing, remitting, multiple scelorsis at age 15. Although he’s been extremely, clinicly symptomatic, repetitive MRIs only reveal 2 lesions. As well, in 2017, he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. That diagnosis was confirmed though a disgested capsule study earlier this year at a secondary facility. I believe I may have a gluten intolerance, too. I stumbled across your blog while looking for information with which to pursue a course of action. We’ve both been tested for CD. Thoughts?

    1. It’s actually fairly common to show symptoms of celiac or gluten intolerance, but have a negative blood test. I’d recommend going to a GI doctor for an endoscopy. I’d also recommend having the genetic test done, as it is frequently found in family groups. (My insurance covered the check for the two genes.)

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Who I am. And who I'm not.

Who I am. And who I'm not.

I AM someone who's been gluten-free since 2007 due to a diagnosis of severe celiac disease. I'm someone who can steer you in the right direction when it comes to going gluten-free. And I'm someone who will always give you the naked truth about going gluten free.

I AM NOT someone who embraces this gluten-free craziness. I didn’t find freedom, a better life or any of that other crap when I got diagnosed. With all due respect to Hunter S. Thompson, I found fear and loathing of an unknown world. But if I can share my wisdom, tell my stories and make the transition easier on you, I’ve done my job.

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