We read and discussed with interest the recent article on Campaign, Will ads ever stop patronising women. Go on over and read it if you like (we’ll wait), but we can offer the tl;dr version. Yes, sexism has been a problem in advertising, but things are looking up. One of the talking heads, Charles Vallance Chairman and founding partner at VCCP, goes so far as to say that, “the situation is improving and, within a generation, this will be a non-issue in the UK.”

 
With all due respect, we can’t help but disagree with this sentiment.

 
Here are some office vox pops of how we felt about the article and the issue.

 

  • It is pretty embarrassing that there are basically 2 types of women in 90% of advertising- the sexy one or the mother. None of us are just one or both of these women. We might not be either of them! Understanding your audience and appealing to them is surely the first priority in marketing? Like I said, embarrassing for our industry and downright offensive for women everywhere.
     

  • Advertising seems particularly behind on this. Women aren’t the only ones to do the dishes and to change nappies so why do they keep reeling out the same old boring ads? I’d have thought a bit more creativity would be helpful to their bottom line rather than hinder it!
     

  • Even if a woman didn’t want that choice of two characters (sexy one/mother) reflected back at her – ad content like it might be a successful/easy way of reaching as many of the target audience as possible, so there is little impetus to change. Not until advertising like this causes ‘peak insult’ anyway, and since it’s broadly OK with society at large there isn’t too much chance of that happening.
     

  • Yes, there has been a gradual shift in what is seen as acceptable behaviour, but sexism is alive and well in society and that is mirrored in advertising. I thought the talking heads in the piece were far too optimistic. I think it’s gotten worse over my ad-consuming lifetime, not better.
     

  • I just don’t think the industry as a whole will happily reform itself, just as many of the industries advertising represents won’t (and don’t really feel the need to).

 
So, sexism then. Still a thing in advertising (and society). We may not have ready solutions for this problem, not least because it clearly extends far beyond our own industry – but the very least we can do is stop pretending it isn’t a problem.