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How 2015 really looked for women in media

You would be forgiven for assuming the eventual demise of Page 3, FHM and Zoo would signal the beginning of the end of exploiting women in media.

Whilst many others have been back slapping and high fiving now that Caroline from Basingstoke has finally put her kit back on, I feel incredibly disappointed that the momentum built has ground to a halt with other media owners and advertisers seemingly well and truly let off the hook.

Ola Jordan is a household name for Modal Britain (how we define the new mass market - the middle 50 per cent of the population defined by income not class), thanks to her rise to fame on Strictly so it does makes sense for Pringles, a mass market snack brand, to choose her to front its Christmas campaign. However having her in a bath wearing a low cut dress, leaning over a barbecue lighting Pringles candles and seductively lying on a bed of mistletoe doesn't.

With campaigns like this, it’s easy to forget the victories women in media have had this year. For me, Page 3 is (and was) just one example of the sexualisation and stereotyping of women in media. In many ways it was the best of a bad bunch as at least its purpose was blatant and clear.

There’s a certain snobbery that surrounds the debate, too. Boobs on Page 3 are rightly no longer acceptable in mainstream mass market print media. When will this translate to broadcast and online? Why is it more acceptable to have naked women in glossy monthlies, than it is in mass market media? Surely justification that it is art or fashion doesn’t stand up to scrutiny and doesn’t give their audience much credit?

I know I’m not the only one in this industry thinking about this issue either. I saw a tweet from Ogilvy’s Nina Jasinski which prompted me to think about what our industry is collectively doing to tackle a topic which seems to have gone very quiet since the Page 3 victory.

Whilst there has been a push to increase the number of women in news coverage, these are often in the capacity of celebrity or victim. In cross platform news coverage, male experts and authority figures still outnumber females 4 to 1. This outdated start point is typified in a recent piece in Shortlist, which had a category for best women, whilst all other categories where skills based rather than gender based.

As marketers, it is our role to come up with ideas that are in tune with public sentiment. The tides are turning and the support and momentum of the ‘No More Page 3’ campaign was clear evidence of that. Both men and women were behind the campaign, yet marketers still seem to think that all everyone wants to see is the old fashioned, patriarchal approach to advertising.

Making the connection between your product, brand and story are crucial elements of good marketing and advertising. Campaigns that use women’s toned and honed bodies are surely only appropriate for a product where their fitness is relevant. Yet, we are still using women in next to no clothes to promote and get coverage for products that are totally unconnected.

Media owners reflect this in their choice of spokespeople and presenters too. Surely it is time to put pressure on prime time shows to stop dressing their female stars in a certain way and even more importantly, to allow older women to have a greater presence on prime time television.

Let’s not be afraid to broach these difficult topics, and to do our bit, nicking shamelessly from WACL to ‘speak up; inspire others, and challenge and change’.

Zoe Harris is group marketing director at Trinity Mirror Solutions