Believe it or not (or should I say: “recognize it or not”…), advertising plays an important role in our lives. Commercials are everywhere, and not only on TV. We find them at the streets, inside the magazines we read, when we switch the radio on…, it’s impossible to skip advertising! And despite the fact that we may pretend to be “anti-consumption” people…, come on! Advertising is all around us, and we cannot deny it. We cannot avoid it.
That’s the reason why, many times, we all feel “touched” by commercials. And that “touching” thing becomes stronger when we talk about sexism in advertising. When we see and add where the women or men roles are stereotyped, or where violence towards men or women is an evidence. Aha! We react!
Girls, just take a look at the following commercials by MERCATOR, an insurance company from Belgium. And after that, tell me if you have or have not felt something. Maybe we laugh, maybe we find it funny, or offensive…, but we will feel something, for sure!:
It’s true. We react. But the problem comes when that reaction becomes, somehow, an “over-reaction”. I find that, some years ago (and not many…), it was a normal thing to see sexist commercials, specially towards women, that gave stereotyped messages like “only being pretty, and being charming towards men, you will triumph in life” (messages that, on the other hand, are still everywhere, specially in cosmetics and “low calory food” commercials). But we are getting used to over-reaction, that is: advertising where it seems that women are looking for revenge.
And I, personally, can’t find it funny. We are all human beings and, dear advertisers, men do also have feelings, they can also feel offended. Not just women. And for a better understanding of what I’m trying to explain, just look at the following examples, and try to substitute the play role of the male characters for the opposite sex:
SIEMENS commercials (from 2004):
And, more recently, MARCILLA coffee commercial:
Let’s think for a second: what would have happened if, instead of men in the latest examples given, there had been women? Ouch! Think, of course, of the dates when the commercials were launched.
The war of the sexes has always been there, and is still here to stay. And for brands, the single fact of targeting their products brings the danger of stereotyping their messages. More than ever, this is today a true danger: customers are educated enough in communications to “analyze” our messages and maybe find offensive speeches. But dear communication proffesionals, don’t be afraid! For sure, there must be and there actually are creative solutions enough to skip conventional messages, and also to avoid stereotyped messages and to fall into “the war of the sexes”. There’s a new creative world of possibilities for advertising, so… just go for it!