I love Jennifer Aniston as much as Donald Trump loves his hair. I have watched an episode of Friends every day since 1994 as well as all her films. Yet I never truly understood this movie title [The Object of My Affection] until I saw someone post a video by Manhattan-based advertising agency called Badger & Winters. The agency makes a statement about women in advertising in this highly engaging short film, titled "We Are #WomenNotObjects."
The agency promised to quit one of advertising's worst habits – objectifying women.
Before you read further, I suggest you Google ‘Objectification of Women’.
I did and the first 100 images were ads – and advertising was not even a keyword in my search. So were Badger & Winters fair in highlighting this issue without any hidden agenda. The agency after all specialises in brands for women and what better way to position yourself as an agency that understands women than by saying: “We understand women.” But that’s another debate.
The rationale given revolves around the accusation that a male dominated industry consciously demeans women in order to boost sales in a male dominated society. I agree this happens, but I wonder in what way it is demeaning? In my opinion, it reaffirms the premise that women are superior and that men need a little extra effort to convince a woman that they are worthy of her. It does nothing less but glorify women. Why is the advertising industry being singled out? Since time immemorial women have been at the vanguard of temptation.
Over three billion people in the world believe that a Man chose to listen to a Woman, instead of listening to a God. The forbidden fruit represents the core of human psychology. Even if you fall in the ‘rest of the world’ category, you cannot deny the fact that for billions ‘this forbidden fruit’ has been the cornerstone of how the human civilisation evolved. Hence the question why blame the advertising industry.
Advertising is and must be reflective of basic human insights. Take the example of the first Axe campaign which had to change course because of this objectification.
The story behind the original campaign was simple – a hallmark of a great idea. Buy Axe, women will love you for it and will do anything for you.
Now, is that something to be ashamed of? Is it not one of the most normal, mundane reactions one can think of? We all know that our spending habits change the day we fall in love. We spend more on restaurants, colognes, clothes, gifts, jewellery - and all that is triggered by a woman – ‘the woman’.
A few years ago I was scared to admit that I didn’t like the new Old Spice campaign; a creative execution everyone was raving about. It won awards and was said to have brought Old Spice back from the brink of extinction. Then one day my wife saw the ad and it was the first time I heard her say something nice about an ad ever since we have been watching TV together.
It bothered me that I was not able to comprehend the genius in the ad and I started searching for the case histories that would explain what made this great campaign. What I found out was not only interesting but also relevant to the defence of advertising industry.
The campaign was built on the premise that women play a major role in influencing men’s choice of brands in personal care and therefore it was aimed at women. Once I got that I immediately saw the great idea behind the campaign.
And it is not only personal care; women directly or indirectly influence a lot of men’s purchasing decisions. Yes, there have been instances where this insight has resulted in offensive campaigns. But why blame the entire advertising industry for this? Do you blame all doctors when you hear about a malpractice? If you look at it from a different perspective, it is actually sad that men need the affirmation of women to convince them that a particular brand is good for them. I can understand the disgust these ads create, but I would rather feel sorry for these men, than blame the advertising industry for objectifying women.
A man yearns for compliments from the opposite sex, whether it’s the cologne he uses or the lifestyle he has. It is in a man’s innate nature to please women, to make them happy and win their approval. William Golding sums it up perfectly on behalf of the advertising industry “I think women are foolish to pretend they are equal to men, they are far superior and always have been.”