“Take a look at Brussels” by TBWA for client SNCF (French Railway System) in Paris is a fantastic way to increase tourism. The cutout for your head really draws in curious passersby, and the charming Belgians on the other end are sure to woo you into buying a train ticket. I’d like to see this as an entire campaign.
I’ve got mixed feelings about this one: is getting people to bow down to your product the most awesome thing ever, or just plain humiliating? Personally, I’m embarrassed for all of the people in the video below. Except for the grandmotherly lady who takes the initiative and hits the button 100 times for her free rice snack.
So what is this thing? It’s Australia’s Fantastic Delites new marketing campaign produced by Clemenger BBDO called “How far will you go for Fantastic Delites?” As you’ll see below, people go very far indeed. Dancing, literally getting on their knees and bowing to the machine, doing the chicken dance, pressing the button 100, 1000, and even 5000 times–it’s degradation at its best. For rice snacks. RICE snacks, people! Does that even sound worth it to you? For better or for worse, our opinions actually don’t matter because the video shows that type of marketing to be effective –just look at all the crowds! I think a major part of the appeal is just that–it draws a crowd and attracts attention. People stop what they are doing to watch another human make a fool of his or herself. And then of course they become curious, what is this thing, what’s it for, who is Fantastic Delites, and maybe I want one.
This is a fantastic example of interactivity in marketing. It’s pushing the limits of human-machine interaction, all while making a name for Fantastic Delites not just at its location, but around the world because of that video. I’m impressed. And slightly repulsed. But mostly impressed.
Last night I went to a Women in Film-Chicago event where Ruth Ratny, creator of Reel Chicago, spoke about women helping other women. What follows are my thoughts on helping other women and breaking down the barriers that prevent gender equality in the film and media industries.
“We need to work smarter, not harder,” Ruth explained in relation to women surpassing males in the workplace. This is true; a “hard” woman will shut out other women to protect her own position, prevent them from excelling, and ultimately, be a cog in the wheel that is our patriarchal culture. A “smart” woman will not fear an up-and-coming industry star–in fact, she will encourage her, mentor her, or at the very least, be a helping hand.
Ruth noted that while men hire their “buddies,” women shut out other women out of insecurity. These insecurities are possessed by all victims of the 2012 economy but are exacerbated by a predominantly female desire to overcompensate for our heightened emotional intelligence–an emotional intelligence that, in the professional field, can be perceived as weakness.
As a woman, I do not believe that emotional intelligence suggests weakness; on the contrary. Emotional intelligence is a valuable skill that allows you to read body language, mannerisms, and tone of voice. This is a vital skill in the professional field, and trains you in the art of “perfect timing.” Yes, it’s likely women possess this skill set as an adaptation to motherhood; mothers read their children in order to find out what they need before they can even speak! The skill surpasses the infant stage and continues through teenage years when the kid at risk of sheer stupidity. At this time, it is the mother’s duty to read her teenager, understand his/her inner turmoil, and do her best to prevent him/her from getting into a sticky situation that could impact the rest of his/her life.
If you have ever been in a relationship with a woman, this situation should sound familiar:
Man: “What’s wrong?”
Ask yourself: what is upsetting the woman in the above conversation, given the context? If your answer is “nothing,” then congratulations–you are a man. You live in a world where your receive preferential treatment in every vein. However, you may also consider yourself emotionally-retarded. Being able to see past the surface of words to the meaning behind those words is a skill that the grand majority of woman possess and a minority of men possess.
Being a man, you may expect the woman to verbalize exactly how she feels. However, that is simply not the female way. And why should we conform to the male way? Just as we women cannot expect men to understand our words are often spoken in code, men cannot expect women to speak exactly that which they mean. So there needs to be some kind of compromise here.
Why do I mention all that in the scope of women in the workplace? I don’t know, it just seemed relevant. It’s not just men who get fed up with speaking in code; its women as well! Women can turn on other women for this fact of life; I’m sure we’ve all heard some female, at some point, say: “Ugh, I hate girls. All of my friends are guys.” All cards on the table-I’ve even said that before, and it was a lapse in judgment. To all the women who say that now: congratulations! You enjoy spending time around people who are nice to you because they want to have sex with you. If you surround yourself with people like this, ultimately you will find yourself cold and alone.
From an evolutionary perspective, being able to befriend women is a huge advantage. In groups, you are protected, and I’m just talking pure “safety in numbers” right now. Show up at a bar alone and men will think you’re there for them; show up with a posse, and most men will be too intimidated to bother you with sexual advances. Get rejected by a lone woman and you may try again–hey, what’s she gonna do about it? But get rejected by a woman with four female friends, and you’ll receive five dirty looks that’ll shame you out of the bar.
Furthermore, befriending women has an empowering effect on all women, for in numbers, you also have power. To divide women is to disarm women, the same way that to unite men is to create an army. We have many divisive forces in American society: the fashion industry, women’s magazines, advertising, and hypersexualized female characters in film and tv serve to undermine real women’s success every day. For women working within these industries, such as myself, your moral beliefs can be put at odds with the task at hand–after all, sex sells, but what woman really wants to sell sex? As Ruth Ratny discussed, a key difference between men and women is that men monetize everything. For men, everything is about money. A male advertising executive will sell sex and see dollar signs while a woman will sell sex and see the destruction and ostracism of a gender.
Take this classic beer commercial as an example:
A man sitting at a bar turns his head to see a thin, beautiful, made-up woman strutting towards him with the beer of choice. Male takeaway: “hot women and beer-yes please!” Female takeaway: “how can I become as desirable as this woman?” Or even worse: “I am irrelevant because the only thing that matters is an appearance I do not posses.” This is a HUGE problem, because here you have a woman reading a man-made commercial in code when it was originally written, and meant to be read, in plain english. Women code and decode everything; it is in our nature, it protects us from making poor decisions and choosing untrustworthy partners. I consider this coding process the infamous “female intuition”; it is an energy flow that stays with me 24/7, that I have trained myself to be in touch with, and that I always, always trust. I have not once regretted following this “intuition.” The trick- and this is pivotal for compromising language with men– is to recognize which situations require this sort of decoding and coding. Both men and women can and should know this about the opposite gender.
I digress. As it is, there are so many things to consider when it comes to gender roles as they exist, let alone how they play out in the advertising and media industries. My head fills up with these considerations constantly as I go through my life, my career, and my relationships. For every question answered, a new question springs up. It’s impossible to answer all the questions in one lifetime. It’s impossible to try to absorb answers from those who lived before you, because real knowledge comes only from experience. So we’re stuck in a bit of a catch 22…but hope is not lost! Read on for the moral of my story.
There is only one takeaway from this conversation that is absolute and concrete: You, a smart woman, will help other women. You will not judge nor criticize them for their womanhood. Other smart women will respect that, respect you, and in turn help other women climb the professional ranks. The more women in power there are, the more they can help other women, and the more likely women are in general to take each other and themselves more seriously. And it goes on-the more women take themselves and other women seriously, the more men will take women seriously because they can see our confidence and self-assuredness. And there you have it–men are no longer hiring “buddies” over capable women. You mustn’t harden yourself, and you MUST “smart-en” yourself. Get smart, ladies. If you’re a woman in power, look for female ambition around you. I guarantee you will find it in every corner.
I think one of the biggest reasons many women and parents are displeased with the media today is that there is a harsh imbalance of male-female fantasies portrayed in the media. In this essay I will discuss the reasons this imbalance prevents gender equality and creates a malevolent, one-dimensional view of young women in America.
First and foremost, it is important to recognize that all visual media has been edited. It is the art of editing–of selecting specific close-up, medium, and long shots in a particular order–that tells a story. Each shot is chosen specifically and delicately in this order, as to perfectly illustrate the story being told. Each cut simulates a blink of the eye, and with each blink we are concentrating on a new facet of the portrayed experience.
In real life, this is not so. When we blink, our eyes show us the same scene, the same environment. We cannot skip over the boring, monotonous, or irrelevant moments like in film. Life is one long, uncut scene. By editing these moments together with a specific intent (the intent to create a story), we are creating pure fantasy. Every piece of edited media you see is fantasy. Commercials, tv, film, video games, and the horribly misnamed “reality” tv.
The problem is, if you look at the people directing and editing these commercials, they are almost all male. The director of photography (person behind the camera), the director itself, and the editors tend to be male. When you get a combination like this, even if the script’s writer is female, the story being told is influenced by the desires of these men in the same way that any film or piece of media is influenced by each hand that touches it. I want to reiterate that there is nothing wrong with male fantasies, something that vocal people posing as feminists will contest. The problem occurs when our society is dominated only by these fantasies, and there is a lack of female representation.
And here is another one, also by GoDaddy (are you noticing a trend here?):
By the way: every single crew member, ad executive, and pre-production member for the GoDaddy commercial above is male. The only exceptions? The actresses.
Now that you’re hopefully starting to feel enlightened, let’s move on to the next part of this essay. The “equality part.”
To illustrate my point, I would like to use the Old Spice campaign as an example. Note that this campaign differs only from the Axe campaign in that it switches the stereotyped gender roles.
Well what do we have here? From the advertising agency we have a female Executive Creative Director, a female Producer, a female Producer Interactive, and another female Producer Interactive. And in the crew, there is a a female Executive Producer, and a female Line Producer.
Solving the Problem
I love Old Spice commercials. First and foremost, they are hilarious. You have a good-looking guy fulfilling every female fantasy in one long take. One reason this works so well is because of the editing reasons I mentioned before–there is no cut. It is one long take, and this lack of editing simulates real life. However, its motion graphics and special effects make it very clear that it is still only a fantasy.
However, if you are to look at this commercial in the manner that sexualized female characters are looked at by other women, you will see that not everything is so fine and dandy after all. The Old Spice guy is being objectified and sexualized. His character’s only mission is to satisfy women.
Is that sort of male objectification ethical? No. Objectification of either gender causes people’s personalities and souls to be disregarded as we cast them off as objects for looking at, or, as we commonly call it, “pieces of meat.” So how do we combat this? There is clearly objectification coming from both sides of the gender pool, with one side greatly outweighing the other…
The answer: balance it out! There is no way you can ask a male artist not to paint his fantasy, whether on a canvas or on camera. That’s not fair nor ethical, as we should all have the freedoms to write, film, or paint our fantasies. But what you can do is balance out those male fantasies with female fantasies. And this is important for empowering young women and helping them understand they do not need to be sexual or beautiful to be successful people.
A lot of things have changed for women’s status since our parents time, our grandparents time, and the generation before them, but that doesn’t mean the struggle is over yet. More women than ever are attending college (and out-attending men even), working, and running for office. Men don’t offer women seats on the train anymore, and they won’t pay for your dinner every time you go on a date. We are living under the pretense that both genders are equal, and yet we are lacking a HUGE female influence in the media and political arenas. This is not right, it has to change. Too many women and men live in ignorance of our world’s domination by male fantasies and the insecurities it creates for both men and women (but especially women).
Equality can only be achieved by equal representation. Ever heard the saying, “99% of life is just showing up?” Well women, you (we) need to start showing up and getting out there. In film, in tv, in advertising, and in politics. Don’t be intimidated by male dominance in the industry. What’s the worst that can happen by trying? In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, a champion of equality, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
“I was watching TV one sleepless night and stumbled upon an infomercial for some beauty product. The commercial showed before and after portraits, that to my eye, looked like the same photo just photoshopped. I laughed to myself. Then I made this video.” —Jesse Rosten
On behalf of real women, men who like real women, and advertising agencies across the world I say thank you Jesse 🙂
I am always amazed when, flipping through a magazine, I come across an incredibly well-shot image of a dead woman only to find it is a clothing, shoe, or handbag advertisement. What is it with fashion spreads and dead-looking women? To prove my point, here are a few snapshots from the “Fashion Sucks At…” tumblr, . I think it’s pretty clear that fashion sucks at “life” :
“Just position me so I can see my shoes as I take my one last, dying breath.”
You forgot to bury the head-
This particular look is free with any purchase at your local Walgreens.
“Just hangin with my dead friend.”
Not sure why this is such a trend, but it’s disturbing to say the least. You can find a great example of this in Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “Monster” music video, which I won’t link to because why would I? The entire set design is composed of naked, dead models hanging from the ceiling. Jay-Z raps with a naked dead model in the background. Why is something so suggestive of rape okay for tv? Why is this violence against women from the visual and musical communities okay? Ask yourself.