Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Ladies Aren't Buying It

We live in a time where men and women are getting closer and closer to equality. That implies that we can do the same tasks, tackle the same challenges, and as people, there are certain things we want and value equally. Being painted as outdated stereotypes isn't one of them. There are a lot of marketing campaigns and advertisements out there that simply baffle me as to what team thought they could sell a product by putting down half of the entire population.

Many Americans no doubt tuned in this past winter to see the Super Bowl, partially because of the actual sporting event, and partially due to the ads. The advertisement commercials have become as entertaining and looked forward to almost as much as the game itself, yet with such a high viewership, how did the Dodge monstrosity make it through? The Dodge Charger ad paints women as stifling, shrill control freaks who suffocate their boyfriends and husbands with "ridiculous" demands, and so the only way for a man to avoid becoming a castrated lap dog is to "drive the car I want to drive". My question to Dodge, and other marketing strategists, is why can't the man just drive his car for the sake of driving? Last time I checked, men haven't been repressed for untold centuries. A Charger is not some gleaming hope of redemption.

While it is annoying dealing with advertising targeting men that end up putting down women, I would argue that it is much more frustrating seeing marketing for women belittle the very audience they are trying to sell their product or service to. In this local car dealership ad car buying is a scary experience "especially for women". Excuse me? While I'm sure it is nerve wracking for everyone seeking to purchase their first car, it is anything but helpful to be told that it's worse because of your gender. Preaching this out of a smiling woman's mouth is just insulting because it seems like a pretense to cover up a sexist ad. It's okay because a woman said it, right? It's okay if you're trying to add insult to injury. The same tactic of stereotypes and silly ideas about women presented in advertisements by women can be seen in countless products across industries. Is it a product women use? Then you can bet women have been portrayed as silly in it.

One of the refreshing breaths in the media, as far as I'm concerned, has been Sarah Haskins. Her series on InfoMania, "Target Women" is nothing short of amusing as she dissects myths and silly ideas about women in advertisements. While I love Sarah Haskins, it would be nice if she hadn't been able to have as much success with this series. Without something to make fun of, it wouldn't have been around. That would imply equal advertising now wouldn't it though. What I cannot comprehend why so few companies seem to be able to market their products without playing into outdated gender roles.

Some of the best success I have seen on the "female" product end is Dove's current real beauty campaign. The add focuses on real women of all shapes, sizes, ages and elasticities and shows what their products, shampoo, conditioner, body wash and other hygienic products, are used for in a way that highlights the product, not a negative view of the potential user. You might say, well of course it's easy for Dove to have success, their selling products to women that women already use. My response to that are some of the current Old Spice commericals. The newest one, released recently, is a play on the original "I'm on a horse" commercial. It's not the easiest thing to sell men's products to women, just ask any girl about their opinion on Axe. The Old Spice campaigns capture the opposite audience of the product's designed user and successfully entices them to the product in a positive way.

With women making up the majority of retail sales, with 83% of the market and accounting for $4 trillion of the U.S. consumption, I simply don't understand why advertising campaigns fail at marketing to women so often. I would like to see Budweiser release a commercial advertising their beer to women. If we can have women in positions of political power, women employed in scientific fields, why can't we get a little respect when it comes to private consumption?

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes the intent of advertisements is not nearly as simple as it might seem. For example while the Old Spice commercial is said to be targeted at women, I think it is targeted at men as much or more than women. By showing how this product would make a man appealing to women, the product appeals to men as well as women.

    As far as something like the dodge commercial goes, the product is appealing to men mostly and not women as much. A sports car is one of the few products that men do buy more than women. I think the vast majority of guys watching that commercial wouldn't take offense to it and it would be amusing and memorable. Even though it's not literally true, I'm sure there are a good chunk of men who can relate to the ad and it is just overemphasizing a stereotype for both comic effect and to make people remember the ad.

    The ad had it's desired effect in my opinion. I think the ad is funny and I'm more likely to remember or think of dodge if I was to buy a car, and you also remember the ad and are talking about the ad with others.