A return to Mad Men (in reverse)?

I’ve got a pitch for a beer advert: A group of lads in an office sitting around, shake up a can of beer (let’s call it Fosternberg) and hand it to a young secretary. She looks up, pleased to be offered a cold drink on a hot day. But as she open’s the can, it sprays everywhere, soaking her blouse, prompting her to take it off. The blokes cheer and high five each other.

Or how about this one: We start on a close up of a glamorous young woman. As the camera zooms out, the voice over intones “Smooth…. silky… and…” as we see she’s got her coat caught in the departing bus doors “…a real airy head”. The bus pulls away and drags her with it. Pan round to see a man smirk as he puts a foamy pint of Fosternberg to his lips.

These ideas are obviously meant to be ironic. They would (I hope) never get made, but if they did they would rightly be pilloried in mainstream and industry press as crass and sexist. So how is it that these adverts have been made with the roles reversed? Diet Pepsi and Muller Light have made almost these exact adverts (see below).

“The Gardner” Diet Pepsi advert 2014

Untitled Muller Light advert 2014

Pepsi in particular has a history of adverts featuring women ‘ogling’ a man, but it’s usually framed as a kind of guilty pleasure, certainly the women have a passive role. Perhaps one could argue that “The Gardner” puts the women in a position of power traditionally occupied by men. A strike for feminism? Not really, feminism is about equality.

We don’t want to be on a course for a return to 1950s ads built on stereotypes. Commercials that rely on one gender taking advantage of the other should surely be consigned to the cutting room floor by now.

Is this a case of a man (me) not liking it when the boot’s on the other foot? No again. If more and more adverts aimed at females rely on women making mockery of men, it’ll quickly become a race to the bottom, with ads like the above becoming reality and both sides pointing the finger at the other.
Adverts should provide positive reinforcement of the brands they represent. Too much negativity is a turn off, it’s time for some smarter, more creative approaches.


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