The makers of a new, at-home testing service for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases have apologized for using beloved Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie in their marketing campaign.
The buddies are shown looking at what is presumed to be their own test results. Bert looks a little shocked.
“See Ernie, you’ve got nothing to worry about, everything is positive!” says the caption.
When the folks at Sesame Street saw the promotion, they were a little shocked, too.
“The Mately ad is an unauthorized, unlicensed use of our characters,” spokeswoman Elizabeth W. Fishman told The New York Post.
“We will be contacting Mately and the appropriate parties with a cease and desist letter instructing them to take this down.”
Mately, a health tech company based in New York City, lets people mail in small blood or urine samples from home for testing and receive the results through an app.
Users, who pay a monthly subscription, can share their results with prospective partners on Tinder and other online dating services.
The company is trying to raise $500,000 on Indiegogo and has collected more than $3,500 in three days.
Mately removed the Bert and Ernie promotion from its Facebook page and issued a public apology.
“We sincerely apologize if we offended anyone or if any images were use inappropriately,” said Brandon Greenberg, CEO of Mately.
“This was inspired from an image that was obtained from a meme circulating around social media. This was by no means part of an advertising campaign intended to tarnish the Sesame Street brand, but we recognize the issue and all versions of this image have been removed from all Mately websites and social media pages.”
Bert and Ernie’s relationship has been gossiped about for years. Lore has it that the two are more than just friends.
The New Yorker played that up by running the buddies on its cover after the Defense of Marriage Act in California in 2013 was defeated.
“Of course, this isn't the first time Bert and Ernie have been caught up in sexual innuendo,” notes TV Guide.
“For decades, the pair has been the subject of an urban myth that maintains that the roommates are actually gay lovers - a claim the show has vehemently denied.”
Sesame Street released an official statement in 2011 that Bert and Ernie do not have a sexual orientation.
Former Sesame Workshop CEO Gary Knell once said: “They are not gay, they are not straight, they are puppets. They don't exist below the waist.”