Some say it started with a pimp in ancient Rome, a bright spark who attached bells to his prostitutes’ sandals to ‘advertise’ their availability. Others say it began when the godfather of modern advertising, David Ogilvy, delivered his classic foot-in-mouth clanger: “The consumer isn’t a moron. She’s your wife.” Whatever, it seems that sexism in advertising has existed since Eve was a girl.
Now, the reason I bring this up is because this Sunday is International Women’s Day. The day when we celebrate the progress that women have achieved. A day when the ad industry should probably hang its crass commercial head in shame. Because, let’s face it, how many other industries can you think of that have promoted patronising and demeaning stereotypes of woman with such reckless abandon? An exaggeration? Take a look at these…
Appalling aren’t they? Hard to believe that ads like this helped shape the world that our mothers and grandmothers grew up in. A world where many of them felt they had no choice but to hide their dreams in their back pockets, put on a happy face and stand by their men.
Thankfully, the ad industry has come a long way since then. Sure, we’ve had stumbles where we’ve told women they ought to have been congratulated for using a particular brand of margarine (what an achievement, hey?). And we’ve tripped up from time to time with condescending nonsense like “Good on you Mum”. But we’re beginning to see things like Dove’s Real Beauty campaign, the Always “Like a Girl” video, and the Pantene “Not Sorry” ads. Yep, for the most part, we’re making progress, aren’t we?
I’m hoping we’ll have evolved even more by International Women’s Day 2016, aren’t you?
Deb Enright is a Senior Creative at BCM