Creativity rewards the brave
The Advertising Standards Authority has taken a stand this week against lazy and prejudiced depictions of gender roles. Their 'Depictions, Perceptions and Harm’ report says “a tougher line needs to be taken on ads that feature stereotypical gender roles or characteristics which, through their content and context, may be potentially harmful to people."
The report finds women in ads appear half as often as men and are given less dialogue. Only 8% of women depicted are seen in a professional job, while it also tends to be the male characters in ads who get the laughs or respect.
In all honesty, those working in the advertising industry shouldn’t feign surprise at this news.
We still live in an unequal culture and advertising is a format that tends to depend on caricature to make an impression in its 30 second window. So, the Asda mum is seen dragging herself around the kitchen and supermarket to make Christmas a success for a husband who sits with his feet up asking, “What’s for dinner love?”
While society remains unequal and full of inherent bias, advertising will caricature these traits and play them back to us like an exaggerated mirror. We know younger generations are the change agents breaking down sexual and racial prejudice, but they probably weren’t the target audience for that Asda ad.
As Rachel Ashley points out in Campaign, all too often the prejudiced assumptions about a female 'demographic' begin at the front-end of our process - often with the client’s own description of its customer, which emerges from research with stereotypes still clinging tight.
But surely we’re not testing the potential of our creativity if we take the insight that mums find Christmas stressful and turn it into an advert of a mum, um, finding Christmas stressful. Where’s the tension that makes exciting creativity?
Think instead of Unilever’s Axe deodorant and their interesting campaign addressing the issue of ‘toxic masculinity’. No doubt spawned from the same insight presentations we’ve all seen into millennials being increasingly comfortable with expressing vulnerability as a strength, agency and brand were bold enough to express that insight in an advert that asks men to consider the question: "Is it ok for guys to experiment with other guys?”
The ASA report asks the advertising industry to be aware of the kind of depictions likely to be problematic, listing examples like the below:
- Depicting family members creating a mess while a woman has sole responsibility for cleaning it up
- Suggesting a specific activity is inappropriate for boys because it is stereotypically associated with girls, or vice-versa
- Featuring a man trying and failing to undertake simple parental or household tasks
So we not only need to prevent lazy and prejudiced depictions of gender roles, but also tackle these stereotypical scenarios using these social tensions to make bold, challenging adverts with a progressive perspective.
Tourism Ireland: Game of Thrones Tapestry
To encourage us all to pack our bags and head for the Emerald Isle, Tourism Ireland is highlighting its Game of Thrones connections. To coincide with the seventh series of the programme, they have created the Game of Thrones Tapestry. In a style mirroring that of the Bayeux Tapestry, the new piece is being woven by Thomas Ferguson’s – one of the last surviving linen mills in Northern Ireland. Depicting classic scenes from throughout the show’s history, new sections of the tapestry are being revealed each week with each new episode. Displayed in the Ulster Museum and shared across social media, the tapestry is supported by a microsite where fans can view the whole tapestry via an interactive web app, where they can also share their favourite moments, learn where scenes were filmed and plan a trip to Northern Ireland.
Heinz: Chicago Dog Sauce
Apparently, people in Chicago don’t put ketchup on their hot dogs. It’s considered an affront to the deliciousness of this Chicago favourite. So what did Heinz do? Trick people into putting ketchup on their hot dogs of course. Launching the ‘new’ Heinz Chicago Dog Sauce through a full campaign with print ads, out-of-home and of course sampling, Heinz are converting the people of Chicago one hot dog at a time. You can even buy your own limited-edition sauce at chicagodogsauce.com
Heathrow Airport: Mr Men
To keep young travellers entertained in the airport, Heathrow have created an augmented reality adventure to immerse them in the world of Mr Men. With different characters to find across the airport using an app, when one is discovered a 3D animated video of each character will be augmented into the airport, encouraging footfall to all the different areas. Parents everywhere can look forward to a holiday chasing Mr Men around Heathrow.