Tag Archives: advertising

The “Idiot Dad” Trope

It’s not new, the Idiot Dad TV trope. Remember Tim Allen in Home Improvement? Lately, I feel like we’re making leaps and bounds forward on the portrayal of fatherhood on screen (see Google ads and Up All Night), and simultaneously reverting to the most insulting, egregious examples (see Scott Baio in See Dad Run).

Check out my new piece for Role/Reboot on Baio, the shortcomings of focus groups, Huggies, and why you “can’t be what you can’t see.”

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Related Post: There’s no wrong way to make a family.

Related Post: How to accidentally raise a feminist daughter.

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Filed under Advertising, Family, Gender, Hollywood, Media, Republished!

More on Gendered Advertising

The Good Men Project reposted my advertising piece from yesterday in the Good Feed blog, with a slight twist. When I went to tweak it for their purposes, it occurred to me to flip the script for a minute and think about male advertising icons. If the lady mascots are all about cooking and cleaning, what were the male mascots all about?

This is by no means backed by data or fact, it’s merely what rose to the front of my mind when I set my brain the “male advertising icon” task. Given that 80% of advertising is creating characters that brains accidentally remember, well, it seems like a reasonable metric for success.

Top Male Ad Icons of the last 10 years (According to Emily and in no specific order)

  • The Old Spice Guy
  • “Can You Hear Me Now?” (Verizon)
  • Dell Computer Guy
  • The Mac Guy
  • The Most Interesting Man in the World (Dos Equis)
  • The Michelin Man (tires)
  • Mayhem (Allstate Insurance)
  • Jared (Subway)
  • Gecko (Geico)

So…. technology, cars, beer, car insurance, sandwiches. Interesting…

Who does what shopping is what drives this kind of targeting. We like to blame advertisers for pandering to outdated, antiquated, sexist stereotypes, but the truth is, they’re merely reflecting what their focus groups are saying. If we were less antiquated about who makes car purchasing decisions and who knows how to change a diaper, advertisers would be forced to reconsider their plans. We want them to take the high road, to lead us to wards equality and fairness, to reflect the values we wish we had, instead of the ones we actually do. That seems a little too much to ask.

Related Post: Back when I used to work in advertising…

Related Post: Target embraces diversity.

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Filed under Advertising, Gender, Republished!

Rosie in the News #8: Gendered Advertising Icons

Ad Age, a trade publication that keeps tabs on the shifting trends and constant mergers of the advertising world (of which I was briefly a member), has published their top 10 female advertising icons of the last 100 years. Guess who clocked in at #4? My girl Rosie. But who else is on the list?

Miss Chiquita

1. Morton Salt Umbrella Girl

2. Betty Crocker

3. Miss Chiquita

4. Rosie the Riveter

5. Josephine the Plumber (Comet)

6. Mrs. Olsen (Folgers coffee)

7. Madge the Manicurist (Palmolive dishwashing detergent)

8. Rosie the Waitress (Bounty paper towels)

9. Clara Peller (Wendy’s)

10. Flo (Progressive Insurance)

Here’s another way to think about that list: kitchen, kitchen, kitchen, Rosie, cleaning, kitchen, cleaning, cleaning, restaurant, insurance.

There’s a chicken and egg argument in the advertising world; can advertising compel social change? Or does social change drive changes in advertising?

Bottom line, advertising is about…bottom line. Advertisers will try create campaigns that resonate with how people currently feel to convince consumers that the product “understands” them. That said, pushing the social envelope can benefit an advertiser if they correctly predict the direction the winds are blowing. In those cases, the visibility an advertising campaign brings to an issue can function as a propelling force, both bolstering a movement and selling a product.

Case 1: Huggies – The Huggies “Dad Test” campaign generated some controversy earlier this year when some commenters argued that insulted fathers by suggesting parental incompetence. The gist of the spot was that leaving babies with their fathers was the ultimate test of a diaper’s dependability, with the clear subtext that dads are buffoons who don’t know how to take care of their children and consequently need a superior product to keep it together.

While the spot is indeed insulting, Huggies’ market is not stay-at-home dads, or even engaged equal-partner dads. Huggies is going after the moms who do feel like their husband are either unwilling or unable to do half the parenting, and unfortunately, that’s still a big market. If the ad didn’t resonate with moms, it would never have made it on the air, so in this case, Huggies placed the right bet. While the brand could bet on the social movement towards egalitarian diaper-changing, they’ve correctly guessed that as a whole, society is not quite there yet, and the “dad incompetency” message is still going to be effective for a few more years. Here’s to hoping that as Millennials start reproducing, the monetary momentum behind this kind of media dad-bashing loses steam.

Case 2: Target – After getting slammed for donating to anti-gay organizations a few years ago, Target has done an about face (at least, on the surface) with their wedding registry print ad that features a gay couple. While Target certainly risks alienating a substantial percentage of the population with an ad like this, their brand managers have judged that the marriage equality movement is gaining enough ground that they want to be on the right side of history. Simultaneously, an ad like this does tremendous work for said movement, as a national brand like Target (like Ellen for JC Penny), validates gays and lesbians as a meaningful and valued segment of America in a public, widespread, visually impactful way.

It’s not so hard to imagine these reversed. Huggies could have decided that equal childcare was close enough on the horizon to get a head-start on appealing to those parents. Target could have decided enough Americans are still anti-gay that this ad was too risky. But brands walk a very tricky balance, and the best ones choose the issues on which they can be an early supporter without sticking their necks too far out of the mainstream.

I bring this up because I think it’s telling that the most recent addition to Ad Age‘s canon is not selling a cleaning, cooking, or household product. Flo sells insurance? Boring? Yes, but not a particularly gendered sphere of consumer marketing (comparatively speaking). Progress? Remains to be seen

Related Post: The whole Rosie in the News archive.

Related Post: Interview with a social strategist.

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Sunday Scraps 74

1. WRITING: Junot Diaz has a new book. The Atlantic wonders if Diaz, whose characters are consistently horrible to women, can write a sexist character without writing a sexist book.

2. SPORTS: With the Olympics being all about Missy, Gabby, Serena and the Fab 5, Grantland wonders if we’re past what he dubs “the Kournikova era”, when being hot matters more than being good.

3. DRUGS: Artist Bryan Lewis Sanders takes most drugs known to mankind and then draws self-portraits (Cultso).

4. ADVERTISING: Man, sometimes Google knows what’s up. Instead of doing the “dumb dad” routine in their latest Chrome campaign, they actually do a pretty cool portrait of a father-daughter relationship.

5. LIT: Literary archaeology is the coolest. For only the second time ever, a photo of Emily Dickinson has been found!

6. TRANS: DC launches its first ever transgender respect campaign with billboards featuring real members of the trans community and the (obvious) directive to treat everyone with respect and dignity.

Related Post: Sunday 73Joy of Sex illustration history, Philip Roth vs. Wikipedia, my new fave NFL player

Related Post: Sunday 72 – Zoe Smith vs. haters, Valerie Jarrett, Katherine Boo on Katrina

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Filed under Advertising, Art, Books, Gender, Really Good Writing by Other People, Sex, Sports

With a Cherry on Top

Do you remember that gym I almost joined and then didn’t? Well, I went back.

I’ve been feeling a little lackluster in the exercise department these days, just stuck in a rut and in need of a boost. The gym was offering a free week and I figured that if I wasn’t giving them my money, I could sleep easy despite the damaging “Look Good Naked” messages they were broadcasting.

What they want, what all gyms want, is to sucker you in with a low rate and a good deal, and then sell you on how convenient/luxurious/intense/life-changing it is until you can’t help yourself and you fork over your credit card.

It almost worked. The classes I took were great. The facilities were lux (shampoo and conditioner?). I felt rejuvenated. Muscles I haven’t touched in a while were worked and strengthened. Maybe I could do this, I said to myself. Exercise is important to me, after all, and the convenience is hard to beat. Should I compromise my health and fitness goals to make a political point about body positivity?

Yes, yes I should. On my last free day, I noticed a new promotion in the lobby. It’s a large cardboard display with a cut-out where you can put your face:

Oh hell no. Is this what I’m supposed to want to look like? Is this what I’m sweating and panting and squatting and jogging and hurting for? Should I fantasize about the day when someone will want to cover me in chocolate and put a cherry on my head?

I could write a whole thesis on all the things that are wrong with this image, but I think you know what it would say. It’s a beheaded, naked, high-heeled woman covered in dessert toppings with her legs in the air. Can there be a more egregious conflation of the pursuit of health and the pursuit of being sexually desirable? Also, let’s just note, there is most certainly not a comparable naked dude in a whiskey tumbler.

So yes, it would be awesome to have a gym just a short elevator ride away. But it would not be awesome for my self-esteem to walk by this hot mess of a poster every day. I know that this calculation, of convenience vs. principle, is not going to come out the same for everyone, and that’s just fine. As we’ve discussed, we all make patriarchal bargains based on our values and our needs. This is just one bargain I will not be making. For sure.

Related Post: What is my body for? How Title IX changed my life.

Related Post: “Your body will get the recognition it deserves.” Say what?

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Filed under Advertising, Body Image, Gender

So What Do You Do Exactly? Social Strategy Edition

Welcome back to my jobs series, So What Do You Do Exactly?  Today’s guest, Ambika, is social strategist at the big NYC advertising agency BBH. She works on megabrands (rhymes with “schmoogle”), up-and-coming products, and non-profits to help them design and execute a 21st century strategy for connecting with their consumers.

What’s your actual job title? Social Media Strategist.

What would your job title be if it actually described what you do? Brand planner, helping brands find their most articulate, clever, effective digital and social selves.

What does a sample day look like? Since my job is to be well versed on all things social, I spend my mornings perusing Facebook and Twitter. I follow a ton of great digital guru sites (Mashable, PSFK, TechCrunch, Gawker, College Humor, BuzzFeed) that keep me in the know. I spend a good amount of time reading.

I am the only specialized social media strategist at my agency, so I get pulled into a lot of different projects. At the moment I’m working on two alcohol brands, a big non-profit, a personal care brand, a new business pitch for an e-commerce company, and some general thinking on how to make our agency more digital/social. Phew – I guess I never usually list it all out! I love that I’m empowered to think strategically and creatively and that my opinion is as valued as anyone else’s (despite my young age!).

In terms of actual work, I spend a lot of time prepping ideas for creative development, learning about target markets and their digital/social behaviors, adding texture to creative ideas, and mulling over word choice. Geek attack!
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Do you think data drives the world forward these days? Totally. I’m a data girl by nature and planning puffery kills me. BBH is a traditional, creative ad shop, which means in the past, beautiful, qualitative insights have been tantamount (versus starting a process using data points). Think back for a second – did Don Draper or Peggy Olsen ever use syndicated survey data? Nottt really. But as the advertising industry shifts from serving solely a creative function to more of a consultative function, being able to validate initiatives and efforts is becoming increasingly important.

I always use qualitative research–consumer truths, behaviors, trends–at the beginning of my projects.  But on the back end, especially with social initiatives, quantitative results are absolutely necessary. Social is so new as a creative avenue that sometimes people simply don’t understand the ROI [return on investment]. Data is crucial in showing them that social is big.

You’re uber creative/artistic, how do you find the creative space in the work that you do? I am so lucky that my role at BBH is wonderfully creative. I’m always being challenged to come up with new ideas. People are evolving rapidly and changing everyday (especially on social!), and there are so many amazing ways that a brand can talk to them.
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Strategists are often known for their way with words. And as a writer, this is totally up my alley. I find myself approaching client presentations in the same way I approach personal writing. I always aim to use beautiful, articulate, and succinct language. This, to me, is one of the truest exercises in creativity!

What does “brand management” mean? How does it apply to the average person? Do have a brand I need to manage? Absolutely. And interestingly enough, this is a very current, very emerging trend as of late.

To fill you in on a hilarious truth, I just finished writing a social media strategy for an individual. It was such an eye-opening exercise. I sat down and had him tell me his life story. What he loved, what his childhood was like, who his parents were, how he ended up where he was. It was totally and utterly fascinating (he’s a seriously interesting man in the process of launching a new brand – pretty badass). My job from there was to figure out how to express all of his brilliance/eccentricities through social media. It was actually really fun.
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There’s a really interesting division emerging between one’s offline and online identities. People are very vocal (and mocking) when they feel that your online self is super hyperbolized. To best manage your brand, think through who makes you you – what do you talk about after a few glasses of wine. What do you really love? What’s your true voice? And embrace it, girlfriend! [Ambika has written on this very subject at her blog.]
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Is advertising just manipulation in pretty colors, or is it helping people find what they need? Or both? Advertising just has a bad rap, plain and simple. All of the advertising I’ve done in my life has been based on some human truth.
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At my last job, as a Customer Intelligence gal, we used a lot of data. This made for a really unique offering, and gave us hard, fast numbers to support everything we put on the table. Although my role now is not rooted in data, we still use numbers/insights/trends to confirm what we’re thinking. Being smart about your advertising is table stakes these days. If you can’t show that it’ll work (and how you landed up where you did), no one’s going to buy it!
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I have never sent something out the door before giving it a conscience check, and I take a lot of pride in that.
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In this day and age we all share so much info, are we making it too easy to be tricked? Or are we making it easy for companies to find exactly the right products for us? We’re making it easier define ourselves, and helping the world serve us content that we’ll love. Social media has helped people discover different sides of themselves. It has helped us refund who we are, figure out what’s most important to us, and serve that version of ourselves up to the world. This is really powerful! This is how some of the smartest people in the world, who happen to be super introverted too, build their chops!
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And when people are open about who they are and the things they love, the web makes it easier for them to find what they’re looking for. Take Google’s social search for instance – it can be a little scary to see articles/posts/content suggested by friends when you search in Google. How does Google know this is your friend? Why does it matter who your friends are? You just want a damn recipe! But, wouldn’t you rather use a recipe that’s been used and approved by someone you trust?
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Privacy can be a scary issue, but being open on the web only makes your experience better. I may be a Google Chrome nerd, but the web really is what you make of it. 
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To read more about Ambika and her social strategy brilliance, check out her blog Whole Creativity and follow her on Twitter/Instagram (@ambika_g). And, for those of you who want to really dig in, Ambika would love to hear from you, so shoot her a note at ambika dot gautam @ bartleboglehegarty.com.
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Related Post: So What Do You Do Exactly? Social Work Edition.
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Related Post: So What Do You Do Exactly? Photography Edition.

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Filed under Advertising, Art, Guest Posts, Media

The Soda Wars

Nothing like a little government overreaching to welcome me back to the world post-vacation! In a nutshell, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is proposing a ban of sugary beverages over 16 ounces from all of the city’s restaurants, movie theaters, etc:

“Obesity is a nationwide problem, and all over the United States, public health officials are wringing their hands saying, ‘Oh, this is terrible.’ New York City is not about wringing your hands; it’s about doing something. I think that’s what the public wants the mayor to do.”

Now, you might say, well good! Who in their right mind needs 16 ounces of high fructose, corn-enriched, syrupy, fizzy, deliciousness? And to that, I say, none of your business!

Look, I’m not discounting the dangers of childhood (or adult) obesity, and I’m not discounting that, because of health care costs, obesity is and should be a public concern. And I’m not disputing that soda etc. isn’t a prime culprit of the problem. But a ban? Really Bloomberg? You think the answer is telling people what’s right for them? Such a dictatorial approach! Is that really the precedent we want?

Do we ban cigarettes? No. We just tax the crap out of them, and then limit the places people can smoke them. In other words, make it difficult, expensive, and socially unacceptable for people to buy 16 oz beverages, but don’t tell them they can’t. You can’t tell people what to do to themselves (just ask people with idiot tattoos), but with decisions that affect the public well-being, you have to find away to incentivize the best behavior (why there should be higher taxes on hummers than priuses).

Disney has a better plan, believe it or not. The mega-advertiser just announced that food promoted on its kid-focused channels must adhere to a new set of nutritional regulations. Now that’s an incentive I can get behind. We, collectively, have to make it harder to create, package, market, and consume shitty food that makes people sick. We, collectively, have to make it easier to find, afford, purchase and eat healthy food. Individual corporations can take on some of that burden, but the government has a fair share of responsibility too. Banning an excessively large bucket of coke doesn’t even begin to touch the root of the problem.

But, my government should not be telling me what to purchase at the movies. My government should not be subsidizing king corn until the first 6 ingredients in any packaged good start with “corn.” My government should be passing legislation that prevents public schools from serving tater tots and ketchup and calling that two vegetables.  My government should be incentivizing, responsible, local businesses to make decisions that facilitate, but don’t mandate, healthier behaviors.

Chicago’s three biggest food deserts (via Chicago Magazine)

Chicago’s poorest neighborhood are also the ones with the fewest grocery stores, and not coincidentally, they are the ones with the shittiest schools, the highest violence rates, and the shortest life expectancies. Telling people they can’t by a tub of Dr. Pepper is not the same as providing people with the education, access, and tools they  need to keep their families safe and healthy.

Related Post: Obesity linked to lower paychecks.

Related Post: Lucky me, I have grocery stores nearby, so I can make things like this.

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