Random Musings on Ads and PR

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So, there’s some television commercial for something – I can’t even tell you what it’s for – where a woman is sitting in a chair on a beach looking at a tablet while some guy – I suppose it’s her husband – is vacuuming the sand beach.    Then the scene flips to her sitting in the living room looking at her tablet with her husband vacuuming the floor.    Like I said, I don’t know what the commercial is for, but it has something to do with her envisioning her home being like a tropical paradise or something.

All I could think of was “I wonder if they made the guy vacuum because if they’d have a woman vacuum while a guy is sitting around they would hear about it from a bunch of women?”

This may sound silly, but I’m willing to bet that this was discussed.

My issue isn’t that a guy was vacuuming.   I’ve done it.   Most married men at some point do, whether it’s the way the jobs typically break out or not.   I don’t take offense to the implication.

My issue is that we’ve somehow made any reference to traditional roles verboten.   You see it on ad after ad.   If women are cleaning or cooking it’s only because the man is too stupid to do it.   But usually it’s either a role reversal or it’s shown as a cooperative effort.    It’s just annoying.    Again, it really has nothing to do with whether or not a man can clean or cook.   That’s not my point.   Few, if any men, actually care that they are being shown in what might be considered an emasculated fashion.   And even if we care, we’re too lazy to complain about it, and it’s likely that the product isn’t meant for the typical guy anyway.    But the reverse isn’t true.    Products peddled for men often still make fun of men, even as they are trying to sell the goods to them.

Women want equality, but I’m seriously trying to remember the last time a woman has been made to look like an idiot while the man is the reasonable one.    The closest thing I can think of is the State Farm Commercial where the guy’s talking to an insurance agent and the woman freaks out.     Rarified air there.

Isolated, none of these ads are a major deal or problematic.   But when there is no real balance there is an ever-pervasive drip, drip, drip in the messaging that does, I believe change peoples’ attitudes over time.

Where I work, there is a poster that promotes the following:   “Stand out and get noticed.”    They want us to complete a profile page so we don’t miss the opportunity to showcase experience, skills, etc.

The picture on the poster is a woman standing up at the end of a table, hands placed on the table on either side of her, while she is hovering over other people who are all fixated on her.    The first thing that strikes me about this picture is that I can’t recall a whole lot of meetings I’ve been in where the person leading the meeting strikes this sort of posture.    It’s a position of noticeable elevation above other meeting participants, and has certain connotations.    I am quite certain that this would be looked at unfavorably if a man struck this posture.   But the marketing people know that they will not get pushback if a strong woman is pictured, whereas a picture of a man in this position would be misogynistic.

The other thing noticeable about the picture if one pays attention is, like all other advertising and corporate publications, there is this constant game that we play where everyone needs to be represented.   We’re so freakin’ afraid of getting sued that we need to show the largest spread of people with the fewest number of people.    So, you have the old indian guy, a middle-aged black woman, a young Asian woman, a young Hispanic male, a young white male and a white woman.    But wait…   no blondes are represented!    Discrimination much?     It’s silly, really.   But if you look at any game box, advertisement, or corporate brochure on anything these are the things we focus on.    Heaven forbid we miss a demographic.

What I think is funny is that I live in rural Wisconsin.    And we actually do have some diversity on our company’s workforce (a guy from China, a guy with Korean descent, a couple African-Americans, a couple guys from India…).   But the non-white population in our workforce is probably 2-3% of the total.    But if you look at our company’s brochure when recruiting, you’d swear it’s the other way around.

None of this offends me.   I just think it’s stupid.

 

 

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