Tag Archives: gender roles

ASA Will Introduce Guidelines for 2018 on Gender Stereotyping in Advertising

The Advertising Standards Authority has reviewed its approach to ads that feature stereotypical gender roles, following the publication of an investigation into gender stereotyping in advertising; the Depictions, Perceptions and Harm report. The report claims that gender stereotyping in advertising causes harm towards individuals, the economy and society.

In 2015, the infamous “Beach Body Ready” advert sparked concerns for the sexualisation and objectification of women in advertising, creating a conversation with ASA about how women are portrayed as desirable based on their bodies:

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ASA conducted a review following the complaints, but now the regulators are receiving complaints about ads that feature sexist stereotypes or mock people who don’t follow traditional roles. The new standards are only guidelines and are not intended to ban all forms of gender stereotypes, e.g. there will not be a ban on ads showing a woman cleaning or a man doing DIY tasks. However, subject to context and content considerations, the evidence suggests the following types of depictions are likely to be problematic:

  • An ad which depicts family members creating a mess while a woman has sole responsibility for cleaning it up
  • An ad that suggests a specific activity is inappropriate for boys because it is stereotypically associated with girls, or vice-versa
  • An ad that features a man trying and failing to undertake simple parental or household tasks

“CAP will report publically on its progress before the end of 2017 and commits, as always, to delivering training and advice on the new standards in good time before they come into force in 2018.”
So, the ‘guidelines’ suggest that agencies, brands and companies should consider whether the stereotypes shown in their campaigns would “reinforce assumptions that adversely limit how people see themselves and how others see them”. Here is a list of what should be avoided:

  • Roles: Occupations or positions usually associated with a specific gender.
  • Characteristics: Attributes or behaviours associated with a specific gender.
  • Mocking people for not conforming to stereotype: Making fun of someone for behaving or looking in a non-stereotypical way.
  • Sexualisation: Portraying individuals in a highly sexualised manner.
  • Objectification: Depicting someone in a way that focuses on their body or body parts.
  • Body Image: Depicting an unhealthy body image.

Ads suggesting specific activities were suitable only for boys or girls are problematic and something ASA advises against. This is a topic I investigated at university for my gender project and for my dissertation exploring masculinity in modern advertising. It’s quite incredible (and worrying) to to dissect the vast range of gendered stereotypes advertising still depicts. There is an enormous list of adverts that have been criticised for depicting masculinity and femininity stereotypically, and here are just a few examples:

Aptamil depicting gendered roles for boys and girls

KFC suggesting anxiety/mental health isn’t manly (the ad has been taken down – sorry for the poor quality!)

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GAP portraying only boys as academics

Whilst a lot of people will claim that these guidelines are “over-sensitive” and “PC”,  the mocking of women and men and the reinforcement of stereotyped views of gender roles are issues that have gained considerable public interest, with the facts to support the claims:

The move follows a major research project from JWT (New York) and The Geena Davies Institute in the Media which analysed 2,000 ads and found that women in advertising are “humourless, mute and in the kitchen’. According to the research, women are 48% more likely to be shown in the kitchen.

JWT’s recent Women’s Index surveyed 9,000 women and found that 85% of them felt advertising and film needed to “catch up with the real world”. Additionally, since concerns were raised about gender portrayal in advertising, brands have taken a conscious decision to change the way men and women are depicted. Unilever recently teamed up with Mars, Facebook, and WPP to form the Unstereotype Alliance – a group dedicated to purging gender bias from ads – followed by an ‘Unstereotype’ pledge. Following this, they created Dove and Lynx ads which aimed to smash traditional gender roles, and consequently saw a 24% increase in consumer ratings.
Lynx ‘Find Your Magic’ is actually one of my favourite male brand ads:

In a time where we need feminism, diverse masculinity and gender diversity more than ever, I think this is a wonderful idea. The fact that they are guidelines rather than rules also helps show people that based off research, this sets a standard that we should all (not just creatives) adhere to when it comes to gender. Sort of like a moral code.
It’s hard to believe that 40+ years after the Sex Discrimination Act we are still seeing gender discrimination on our screens.
Often, I wonder if people are becoming desensitized to feminism because a large majority of people actually believe that women have equal rights just because we won the right to vote or can become a CEO. When it reality, we are far from gender equality – salaries aren’t the same, women and discriminated against and girls are still sexualised.

So if you think this is “over-sensitive”, you need to EDUCATE YO’SELF!

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International Women’s Day: Take Your Pussy Anywhere You Want

Ad agency Invisible Man created this short video for International Women’s Day, specifically for the strike A Day Without a Woman. Arranged by those who organised the march for the Women’s March on Washington, D.C., the strike is in support of the human rights of women and all gender-oppressed people, through a one-day strike of economic equity.
The short ad states “Take your pussy anywhere you want. Just don’t take it to work” – due to the pay gap between men and women, human rights activists demonstrated March 8th as a day where women should strike from working if they aren’t going to be paid the same as their male colleagues.

This message is brought to you by a group of creative people who feel strongly that women’s rights are human rights. We believe in using our powers for good and support the efforts of every group trying to make the world a safer and more equitable place for women and girls.

P.S. We also think it’s high time women reclaim the power of a certain word for themselves.

I can’t help but see a nod towards Trump’s “grab her by the pussy” remarks, which works so well as double entendre for someone being paid less just because of what’s in between their legs.

 

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Audi: Drive Progress

Progress is in every decision we make, every technology we invent, every vehicle we build. It’s our past, our future, our reason to exist. Audi of America is committed to equal pay for equal work. A 2016 report by the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee found that women were paid 21% less than men on average.*

Audi is know for its storytelling adds, and this Super Bowl ad by Venables Bell & Partners didn’t disappoint. It’s always interesting when a brand takes a political stance, especially when it’s hard to work out whether the message is genuine or just jumping on the back on a current political issue. I like it, and I think it’s important for brands to make their political views public, so that the consumers know what they are putting their money towards.

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Advertising and Gay Men: How the Media Avoids Gay Intimacy in Advertising

One of the most beautiful and important things about working in the creative industry, whether it’s photography; graphic design; music; dance; acting; writing, is that it allows people of any background, gender, race, sexuality, age to express their opinions and beliefs in whatever medium they wish. The creative industry is at the forefront of self expression and freedom, which has always encouraged and inspired me to pursue a career in this field. Advertising in particular is, as we know, incredibly influential – whether you enjoy ads or just stare blankly during the commercial breaks – they can help convey messages to a wider audience.
Although I am part of British advertising, and we have produced some incredible and iconic work that is undoubtedly timeless, ever since I can remember having an interest in the industry I have been unable to shake off one very obvious tactic used by agencies: appearing pro-LGBT, but avoiding gay men. Obviously, showing gay couples in ads is a very recent (and important) thing, but as equality has progressed so rapidly in the last 10 years I have found myself questioning why the media prefers using lesbian characters over gay men.

Last night I watched a bizarre (but fascinating) documentary ‘For The Bible Tells Me So’, which documents the ways in which conservative Christians have exploited religious teachings and scriptures to deny LGBTQ+ rights. Without spoiling too much, one factor which stood out like a sore thumb was the fact that the parents (of gay children) being interviewed all expressed fears of having a “faggot son” (they said those exact words), even if the story ended up focusing around their lesbian daughter. There was a continual theme of obsessing over the fear of a gay son. As we all know, homophobic beliefs all stem from religion, and their target is 9 times out of 10 going to be gay men.
Why?! Well, as the husbands in these documentaries (and in most religious and/or homophobic households) have the final say on what goes, men generally have more discomfort towards gay men than lesbians. It all stems from a fear that gay men will try to have sex with them (don’t flatter yourself) or influence their sons’ ‘sexual behaviour’. It probably also relates to the fact that mentions of sexuality in the Bible only relate to men sleeping with other men. Lesbianism became publicly demonised during the Victorian era.
I have no idea why gay men seem to receive more homophobic abuse (I know, that is a sweeping statement), and this is particularly evident in the homophobic slurs used – I can name only a few related to lesbians, but gay insults based on gay men are endless. There is a fear and disgust surrounding gay sex, whereas lesbians are often used as part of the male sexual fantasy. Funnily enough, I always wonder whether these religious homophobes get off on girl-on-girl fantasies but heaven forbid two men together! Gross!

[Before I get into the advertising part of this blog, I want to say that I am by no means denying or deflecting homophobia against lesbians, nor am I insinuating that gay or queer women receive less discrimination than gay or queer men. These are merely my observations about the representation of gay men in advertising].

So what the hell does this have to do with advertising? I believe it all stems from the same place – whilst companies, agencies and brands are largely trying to be inclusive by introducing LGBT narratives, the avoidance of male couples is remarkably salient in advertising.
In the US (certain states, of course, we couldn’t have two guys in love being aired in Texas now could we) the depiction of a range of LGBT couples has been, overall, fantastic in comparison to what it was like as recently as 5 years ago. This is particularly amazing for gay men who seem to have an equal platform in terms of narrative to lesbian couples or female same-sex families. Certain states in the US are notorious for being openly pro-LGBT and have no qualms when it comes to presenting gay men in their commercials. A lovely example of this is cosmetics company Lush who recently launched a Valentines Day campaign for 2017 featuring non-heteronormative couples in their campaign. Wonderful! A gay couple are featured as a header on the US website, alongside other gay and lesbian and gender-nonconforming couples in the campaign:

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They even released a very sweet statement for the campaign:

At Lush we believe that love transcends gender. We set out to do one thing when creating our Valentine’s Day visuals, we wanted to capture love between two people and we believe that’s what we have done here. The fact that our loyal and loving fans are starting their own conversations using our visuals and #loveislove absolutely warms our hearts.

But, (and this is a big but), why on earth didn’t this transcend to the UK website for Valentines Day?! There is no mention of the LGBT campaign – no photos, no #loveislove hashtags, just a crappy photo of a heart-shaped bathbomb. This kind of contradiction and blatant picking-and-choosing of where to present certain messages makes the campaign and the company come off as inauthentic, consequently using the gay community to publicise a Valentine’s Day sale. Love is a universal experience, so why can’t Lush’s campaign be? My theory is that British ad men and women are too afraid to upset anyone. We are so apologetic and fearful of offending in the UK that it’s affecting how we stand up for what we believe in.
To reiterate, this seems to be a bizarre UK problem – as a country where gay marriage finally opened its doors to lots of British gay couples and proudly abolished Section 28, I struggle to accept that the advertising industry has moved forward in this way too. The only time I ever seem to see gay couples represented correctly in advertising is when Pride in London is being advertised!
Another very sweet Valentine’s Day campaign featuring a man proposing to his boyfriend by Hallmark has done a fantastic job at normalising gay love in a campaign with lots of other couples celebrating international the day of love:

There’s no hashtags about equality, no clickbait, no hint towards inclusivity, just a mix of normal people showing us what love means to them. Of course this was a campaign in the US! This is the third consecutive year that Hallmark features a gay or lesbian couple in their Valentine’s day ad. I’ve never seen any of those campaigns here, despite Hallmark being a retailer in the UK.

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Ok, for a moment I will stop listing the negatives, and actually praise a British brand who has defied the norms when it comes to gay male affection in marketing – Lloyds! It’s been noted that brands are failing to represent LGBT+ people in mainstream marketing campaigns, but Lloyds Bank have been praised for advancing LGBT diversity both internally and through its brand communications. Perhaps Lloyds being no.2 in Stonewall’s Top 100 LGBT Employers 2016 rankings influenced the fantastic campaign for ‘He Said Yes’, a same-sex proposal featuring two men.

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Here’s what Joey Hambidge (client account manager at Stonewall) had to say about the importance of LGBT representation in marketing:

While campaigns around Pride season are encouraging and to be applauded, consistent year-round communication with the LGBT community and featuring LGBT people within mainstream campaigns sends a strong message of inclusion and support.
Lloyds Bank springs to mind due to its recent mainstream commercial featuring a male same-sex couple’s proposal. Many young people entering the industry have grown up with an inclusive mentality. Their social circles can be mixed and varied so they are looking for companies that reflect these values. So even if someone may not identify as being LGBT themselves, finding an LGBT-inclusive employer is often important to them.

Lloyds Bank could have so easily used women in the ‘For Your Next Step’ ad, but I absolutely believe they did the right thing by using two men. Not only were they featured in the ad below, they have also been used on huge underground billboards and posters:

Lloyds Bank have actually featured same-sex couples in its advertising since 2010, and Marketing Week have written exactly why this is so important in an article here. I feel honoured to have worked with such an inclusive brand during my time at adam&eveDDB.

Unfortunately, Lloyds Bank are the exception in the UK. Whilst doing my research for this blog post I came across one of my favourite websites, Pink News, which had a news section on gay ads – hoorah! Lots of content to prove me wrong! Not quite…….. as wonderful as they all are, they’re all American. Check out the list here.
There has been cataclysmic shift in the portrayal of homosexuality in advertising, particularly when it comes to the likes of fashion brands such as Dolce & Gabbana producing homoerotic ads for years. This is an improvement to be noted – we’re hardly seeing any half naked, muscle bound and oiled up Adonis, instead we’re seeing gay men being portrayed in a mundane, family-orientated way, like the ads mentioned above. This still isn’t good enough – all of these campaigns (including Lynx’s ad featuring a dancing man in heels; Lynx’s “kiss the hottest girl… or the hottest guy” adTylenol’s #HowWeFamily campaign, to name a few) are American and Australian. They aren’t broadcasted on British TV, even if though sell the exact same products or services here.

Whilst we should always praise and encourage the portrayal of lesbians in advertising, as the sexualisation and fetishism of lesbians is still rife in the media, it’s difficult to ignore the blatant use of two women being more comfortable viewing than two men.
Match.com really had the chance to represent the LGBT+ community in a normal way like a lot of the ads above have done. Lots of dating apps and websites are now trying to convey a message of inclusivity – that their services are not just for straight people. As part of their campaign, Match.com decided to dedicate one spot to two girlfriends who supposedly found love through the website. I cannot help rolling my eyes and cringing every time I see the following ad on TV:

‘Messy Girl’ actually was no.3 on the top 10 complained about UK ads, because of kissing women (896 complaints). Despite the ridiculous amount of homophobic complaints, I do not respect Match.com for this campaign, and I cannot support their efforts. I find the entire narrative unnecessary – the “messy” story did not need to include lesbians undressing (with lacy lingerie on underneath… come on, really?!) where all the other spots for the same campaign are not sexualised, and instead portray the innocent, adorable and quirky aspects of dating and falling in love.
The entire ad screams male gaze, and Match have clearly spent no time researching into what it means to the LGBT community to be represented in advertising. ‘Messy Girl’? more like Messy Idea! Who wrote this sh*t?

Sainsbury’s 2016 Christmas ad saw an enormous amount of praise not just from creatives surrounding the concept and execution, but also from families in the UK – particularly same sex parents who were thrilled to see female same-sex parents along-side mixed-race families and a single dad:

Whilst successfully reflecting modern British families, I can’t help believing that two women were favoured over two men. Even though they are animated characters, lesbian women are predominantly more accepted over gay men because society still does not feel comfortable with the idea of gay male sex. You might be thinking “calm down, how on earth did you go from innocent animated characters to gay sex?” well, that’s how homophobes’ minds work – they believe the representation of same-sex parenting is damaging and has a gay-agenda. So, ASA (or whatever standards authority board) receive complaints, ads get taken down, and clients/agencies steer clear of pro-LGBT concepts for fear of offending. I can’t tell you why people think this way, but I can tell you it is still a very big and very ridiculous problem. It’s particularly concerning that very few UK brands choose to represent male couples, particularly affectionate or intimate gay couples.
I think the current discrimination epidemic seen during the US election speaks volumes in terms of how far we have to go regarding LGBT rights. From what I have seen on social media, people have (up until the election) remained naive and unaware of how discriminatory certain groups of people can be, and how manipulative they can be when working in numbers. A lot of people in this world genuinely believe gay sex is demonic, and that those showing it on TV are pushing an ‘agenda’ to turn their kids gay. These same people compare gay men (never lesbians) to pedophiles. If it wasn’t so tragic, I’d laugh.

I want to end this blog post on a positive note – the note being Thomas Cook – a UK company who have subtly flown the flag for the LGBT community in this lovely ad called ‘You Want We Do’:

Again, no hidden messages; no hashtags; no trends; no exploitation, just a bunch of different people all wanting a great holiday with the ones they love.
Jamie Queen, marketing director for Thomas Cook Group told Marketing Week:

I think marketers can always do more to represent the needs of the consumer and that’s what we’ve tried to do with the gay kiss. It comes down to the needs of our customers and addressing a modern population.

Aside from the wonderful representation of gay partners (header image) and gay dads (below), the ad itself is actually wonderfully art directed and shot.

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To conclude, what I’d like to say to creatives is, don’t be like Match.com – be like Thomas Cook – be revolutionary, be bold, be authentic. Feature gay love, feature men playing tonsil tennis, and do it with conviction. Don’t worry about the complaints, the Bible bashers and the ratings. You are the voice, and we are living in a time where your compassionate creativity is needed more than ever.

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Gender Stereotypes and Children: Stop Gendering Toys!

It’s like something from my childhood imagination! Created by Proximity BCN with production by Post23 for Christmas last year, this ad for Audi Spain goes way beyond a whimsical animation. At first glimpse, one would assume this is an advert for a toy store in Spain.
The animation is an attempt raise awareness regarding gender-specific toys – an important message that plenty of other kids brands have attempted to explore. The campaign was accompanied the hashtag #CambiemosElJuego (“Let’s change the game”) to start a discussion about the topic online.

Eva Santos, Creative Director at Proximity says:

There is a growing trend for brands to communicate what they are all about and how they intend to improve people’s lives.

So, this is an experiment rather than Proximitie’s beliefs?… Weird statement. Anyway, Audi Spain rep Ignacio Gonzalez sums up the idea more eloquently:

“The Doll That Chose to Drive” is the brand’s way of helping to promote a more egalitarian social model … starting with boys and girls, tomorrow’s drivers.

This topic is something I’ve explored a lot (especially at university) – the gendering of children’s toys being limiting, and frankly archaic. Smyths Toy Superstore followed the genderless toys notion, featuring a cartoon boy in princess fancy dress (although the ad is pretty crappy itself):

Smyths were highly praised for the ‘If I Were A Toy’ advert for breaking gender stereotypes, but this wasn’t the first time a kids’ ad had the support of gender-variant consumers – Barbie released a Moschino Barbie (costing $150…. what-the-f!) in 2015, alongside an advert for Mattel featuring an adorable boy. For the first time ever, a boy was been featured in a Barbie commercial:

The list could go on! More and more, I’m seeing both girls and boys sharing their toys and blurring the gender lines in adverts, ignoring gendered products forced upon them by society’s notion of gender. It’s a very bizarre concept considering consumerism and mass-consumption of gendered products are entirely created by social constructs! The strict divide in gender when it comes to children is something adopted by familiarity – they don’t come out wearing gendered clothes, asking for a pretty pink pony.

Here’s an image by one of my favourites, Barbara Kruger, which is think is very apt for this topic:

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Always #LikeAGirl ad

Using #LikeAGirl as an insult is a hard knock against any adolescent girl. And since the rest of puberty’s really no picnic either, it’s easy to see what a huge impact it can have on a girl’s self-confidence.
We’re kicking off an epic battle to make sure that girls everywhere keep their confidence throughout puberty and beyond, and making a start by showing them that doing it #LikeAGirl is an awesome thing.

On a societal and psychological level, this ad is really interesting in terms of the reaction of the young girls in comparison to the older girls/women. It just goes to show how society fabricates gender roles, which are instilled in children as they grow older and are influenced by so many factors.
HOWEVER, I don’t like this as an Always ad… I actually think this would work better with boys. I’m not sure if this is just assumptive, but aren’t most “like a girl” insults aimed at young boys?

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