When brands try to be ‘down with women’.
Back in the day it used to be cringe-worthy when brands tried to be down with the kids, but today I feel like we are in for an onslaught of brands trying to be down with women. Brace yourselves; this could get uncomfortable.
I saw three different brand adverts in the last couple of weeks that are getting in on the issue of the misrepresentation of women in the media. On a positive note, two thumbs go way up to big brands stepping out of their comfort zone and raising this subject. However, it also shows some brands haven’t quite got their heads around this utterly mind-boggling issue of the diversity of women yet.
Wrangler – More than a Bum
Yes, that’s the strapline; ‘more than a bum’. So many times in my life I have looked at my pair of jeans and said “you know what? I am more than my butt!” Finally, Wrangler has come along and addressed this burning issue that’s been affecting women globally for decades. OK, so you may detect a hint of sarcasm.
I actually watched this advert twice in a row the first time, because I couldn’t quite believe this was what a world leading brand, a group of professionals at the top of their game and what I would imagine would have required a lot of time and money, had produced. I started out with mild interest – a brand trying to talk to women – cool. Then the confusion quickly set in. The advert shows women in varied job roles and lifestyles – good, but then the background song is lots of women saying ‘bum’ repeatedly. And then they show close ups of women’s bums. I’m actually giggling a bit as I write this because I envision someone in a boardroom pitching this idea and somehow everyone looking at each other and nodding, ‘yes, this is it’, ‘this is the winner’. REALLY?!
I do feel bad for Wrangler as well though because people really went to town on them for this. Wrangler has tried to make a change, take a stance on a hot issue and unfortunately mixed its messaging in the process. It got so bad they have actually been accused of being sexist – the complete opposite of what they were aiming to achieve.
Having read their media statements (they had to issue statements because everyone was so ‘WTF?!’) I can at least see how their thinking started out. They wanted to move away from traditional jeans industry advertising approach, which for many years has focused on women’s figures, and so that’s how they arrived at ‘more than a bum’. However maybe they shouldn’t have actually used this SO LITERALLY in the advert, and continuously zoomed in on bums, and said bum. A lot. Bum, bum, bum, you’re more than a bum, here’s a bum, bum, there’s a bum. Bum.
Fingers crossed they get it right next time. Don’t give up Wrangler, you can do it!
Always – Rewrite the Rules
Next, here comes Always. Now this may be because it’s the advert that I see most frequently, quite regularly in fact, but I REALLY dislike this advert. At least Wrangler’s was laughable. There are two versions I have seen for this campaign now, one features a goalkeeper and another features a DJ – the premise being that having your period shouldn’t hold you back from doing the things you love. OK so far; you can see how having excellent sanitary products would be beneficial in either of these situations. But it’s what is said in the advert.
Goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe says: “Because I’m a woman, do you think I’m going to crack under pressure or conquer the field?”
Well, personally Stephanie I wouldn’t think either of those things based on you being a woman.
DJ Pheobe D’Abo says: “As a woman, I can either step aside or step up the game.”
No Pheobe, you don’t even have to consider stepping aside just because you’re a woman, who told you that? Always, probably…
And then there’s the strapline: “Defy expectations. Rewrite the rules.” So, Always is suggesting that people expect women to crack under pressure and then probably just step aside. But with the right sanitary product you might just surprise people! *Facepalm*.
I’m surprised there hasn’t been more said about this one to be honest…? It’s also such a shame as their previous ‘Like a Girl’ campaign hit all the right notes.
H&M – She’s a Lady
Finally is the advert for H&M’s Autumn Collection 2016, which has actually received really positive feedback. Phew! The advert challenges society’s depiction of what makes ‘a lady’ and ‘ladylike’ behaviour.
The advert features lesbians, armpit hair, a trans woman, a muscular woman and lots more people and actions not normally associated with advertising, but very much associated with normal, everyday life.
Using this kind of imagery in a major ad campaign makes women feel proud and free, and for many women it’s the first time they have actually been able to identify with someone featured in a media campaign. Personally, I actually feel relaxed watching this advert, whereas with the Always and Wrangler adverts I feel my hands creeping up over my eyes!
Unfortunately H&M still has a long way to go with being completely sincere promoting an issue like this, especially considering the recent reports of exploitation of their factory workers.
Real Women For Reals
As brands try and find their feet in this scary new world of real women that don’t all look the same, think the same or want the same things in life, let’s hope it is a change that is here to stay. I hope it’s not just a fashionable topic that will also go out of fashion, because for women it’s real life. Dove made a bold statement in its advertising and hasn’t looked back. Other brands probably look at Dove as owning that conversation, but there are many different ways of taking steps forward. Brands: just be clear on the messaging, practice the ethics as a company as well as in advertising and hopefully you won’t hit a ‘bum’ note. WAHEY!