RAF aims to 'challenge sexism' with debut of Channel 4 diversity contest ad

The Royal Air Force (RAF) will use the £1m of free airtime it won as part of Channel 4's Diversity in Advertising competition to mock the gender stereotypes perpetrated by beauty brands and challenge the sexist roles woman are so often cast in by mainstream advertisers.

Launching during The Last Leg on Channel 4 on Friday (15 February), the creative from Engine will juxtapose these stereotypes with the work of the RAF's female on the front line.

Having beaten off competition from the likes of Cadbury Milk Tray, eBay and Flybe, the brand was handed the prize from Channel 4 in late 2018.

Now in its third year, the broadcaster's annual diversity contest invites brands and agencies to pitch campaigns that showcase diversity and inclusivity. Each year, the awards focuses on a new theme: Maltesers and AMV BBDO won the first competition in 2016 with an irreverent, comic slant on disability, while Lloyds and Adam&Eve/DDB’s exploration of the different types of mental health issues took the prize in 2017.

Following the rise of the #MeToo movement, the centenary of the right to vote and a focus on gender pay gaps, this year the broadcaster called for an advert that would “challenge ingrained stereotypes, objectification and sexualisation of women” in advertising.

As the RAF campaign launches, early findings from an advertising diversity survey revealed that the main problem facing women is the roles they are portrayed in, rather than overall levels of representation.

The research, commissioned by Channel 4, studied the 1,000 most watched TV ads over a four-week period and showed examples where women were portrayed in stereotypical and sometimes derogatory ways.

In ads where women have a clearly defined role or occupation, just over 40% showed a woman in a clichéd “homemaker” or “house wife” role.

Channel 4’s head of agency-client sales, Matt Salmon, said the RAF spot was a "worthy recipient" of the 2018 award.

"We hope that other brands now follow the RAF’s lead in considering how women are portrayed within advertising," he added.

Louise Hayward, client managing director at Engine,said: “Gender parity will lead to a more effective RAF, and I’m incredibly proud to contribute to achieving that, while simultaneously challenging the often lazy portrayal of women in advertising.

"I have been humbled by the incredible women in the RAF that I’ve met, and impressed with the fact that their gender is totally irrelevant to meeting the significant challenges they face every day."

The ad will air at 10.15PM on Friday (15 February). You can watch the creative here when it goes live.

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