Sex sells! Still? How so not progressive!

October 23, 2019

And sometimes you have to admit meekly to your daughter that „well meant“ in Marketing & Communications is not necessarily the same as „well executed“.

With the slogan: “Looks like shit. But saves my life,” Germany’s Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) tried to persuade cyclists to wear helmets. Models are sporting nothing but lacy lingerie – and bike helmets. Federal Minister of Transport Andreas Scheuer defended himself: “This slogan is probably not the usual German administration jargon. Nevertheless, it gets to the heart of the message: Helmets save lives!”

This Scholz & Friends campaign did cost 400.000 Euro; i.e. too little for big ad waves. Hence other levers were used: star photographer Rankin, the integration into Heidi Klum’s format „Germany’s Next Top Model“, coverage in BILD, hype thru influencers etc.

The ads have sparked accusations of sexism and was commented from leading politicians with: “It is embarrassing, stupid and sexist for the transport minister to be selling his policies using naked skin”.

Nonetheless the campaign will now be awarded with the silver Effie Award from GWA. The argumentation: It generated 14.8 million Euro earned media plus raised the interested in bike helmets.

So yes, sex sells – still.

In contrast to this, more and more brands release ads that are much smarter and which potently crush gender stereotypes. Like Nike’s „Dream Crazier“ campaign. It features inspiring female athletes like 4-time gold medal winner Simone Biles and snowboarder Chloe Kim, who have shattered glass ceilings in sports.

Invest the 90 seconds – like 10 million users before you – watch the video & share it with your daughters or female colleagues & mentées:

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I love the claim “It’s only crazy until you do it. Just do it!”. It could literally be mine and that of all the female clients we are empowering for their next big career step – completely beyond all clichés and boundaries.

In our daily life, we’re surrounded by advertising, virtually every step we take and every move we make. Worldwide, 76% of female and 88% of male marketers believe they avoid gender stereotypes when creating ads, according to a survey by Kantar.

The world has changed a lot, in times of #MeToo, a UN push for gender equality and governments supporting gender-diverse corporate boards. So it’s up to marketers to reshape associations, break with outdated cliches and promote inclusive standards.

Your customers will thank you for it:

  • 79% of women and 75% of men favor brands that promote gender positivity in their messaging, a Facebook data analysis revealed
  • Especially Gen Z is attracted to gender-neutral marketing.

Speaking of Gen Z and youth:

Do you remember the boundless joy playing with toys when you were a child? But chances are, girls play with dolls and boys with race cars. To break away from this, Mercedes-Benz teamed up with toy maker Mattel. The German car giant launched a campaign to tell girls that it’s perfectly okay to play with cars: Thousands of first-grade girls will get Matchbox replicas of the 220SE driven by Ewy Rosqvist when she won the Argentinian Grand Prix in 1962.

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The UK recently took a strong stance and banned ads using gender stereotypes and outright sexism – typecasting girls as ballerinas and boys as scientists or superheroes, but also ads that portray men as being clumsy at household tasks like doing the laundry or making dinner, or ads that promote unrealistic beauty standards (think ‚beach body‘ – whatever that means).

But not every company has gotten the message. An Austrian carpentry tried to drum up business with a poster featuring busty ladies and the tagline „We’re well stacked. Come and grab it.“ You guessed right – it went viral and triggered outrage over its blatant sexism.

In 2017, the German carmaker Audi compared buying a vehicle to finding a wife and triggered a s**tstorm on Weibo till the ad was stopped.

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The study “Unpacking Gender Bias in Advertising” by Google and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media found that “85% of women said that when it comes to representing them, the advertising world needs to catch up with the real world.”

Nonetheless, we’ve come a long way since the 1950s, where a Ketchup ad asking „You mean a woman can open it?“ or an ad for Van Heusen ties saying „Show her it’s a man’s world“ seemed perfectly normal.

In the future, brands that challenge bias and embrace change and social values will have the winning hand.

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