The campaign theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #BalanceforBetter, a campaign aimed at achieving a more gender balanced world. This doesn’t just apply to work environments but balance in all aspects of life.
With this in mind, it’s interesting to look at how women have been perceived by the media throughout the years, how it affects them and share some of the brands that we feel are really trying to push for progress in celebrating women and in turn creating a more gender balanced world.
For what feels like a lifetime, women have been belittled across all media outlets, whether it has been comparing them to men, sexualising their bodies or telling them how they should look, they have forever been put down in one way or another. Brands in particular have been criticising women in order to sell products from as early as the 1950s.
The recently released Agent Provocateur advertisement (see above) is the perfect example of how IWD can raise awareness of these issues. Though the ad has not received too much backlash, it would be ignorant to ignore the blatant sexualisation of the women in the ad.
And though it was an ‘all female’ production, on first impressions it is reasonable to assume that the ad is to cater to the gaze of men – as many ads have done in the past. The video, while intended to feature ‘strong women’ – still has a few issues left entangled.
Though the women are diverse in race and ethnicity, there is not much to talk of in terms of ‘diverse’ body types. And while it’s supposed to be empowering - through the song lyrics, messaging and attitude portrayed by the brand - the ad is reminiscent of the graphic aerobic classes, that we’ve seen in the likes of Eric Prydz’s infamous ‘Call on Me’ video.
Safe to say, it is polarising. Please comment and let us know your thoughts on the ad, especially in reference to #BalanceforBetter. Men have been sexualised in media too, but is this sort of ad helping or hindering progress in the advertising industry? We’ll see in the next section how sexualisation is age old, and that the common saying ‘sex sells’ isn’t always true.
Brands have been using both sex and women to sell products for years, with the saying ‘sex sells’ being a leading justification and a phrase heard often in the advertising industry. According to research carried out by John Wirtz, an advertising professor at the University of Illinois, it seems that sex, in fact, does not necessarily sell. He carried out a meta-analysis to see how sex in advertising affects our purchasing intentions - the results? Well, there was zero effect. Yes, the men in the study said they liked the sexualised adverts, but simply enjoying the visuals was not enough to make them think about making a purchase.
Sexual objectification of women brings forward a number of issues that are becoming more and more prevalent. While depicting women in such a provocative light on a mainstream scale these views can be taken as gospel and can reinforce bad behaviours towards women to a mass audience – even reinforcing that age old ‘boys will be boys’ attitude, that is starting to be questioned in some media today.
It is clear that marketing now has to move at the same pace as society. As of June 2019, adverts that endorse harmful gender stereotypes, for both men and women, will be banned - so it will be interesting to see how these new ASA regulations are tackled by brands. It would be great to see this trend of more compassionate messaging grow and the issue of equality stop being an ‘issue’ and more of a reality.
And indeed many brands, such as Missguided, Nike, Always and Dove to just name a handful, are fighting to make a difference to the way in which girls and women are seen, heard and talked about across the media.
To show your support this International Women's Day to the #BalanceforBetter campaign, you can share your #IWD2019 message on social media, along with a photo of yourself in the below pose, to create a strong call to action to encourage other to take part in the #BalanceforBetter movement! Make sure to also tag @Zazzlemedia on Instagram and Twitter so we can see just how many of you have been inspired to take part by this blog.
Sacha Mooney is a public relations consultant with Zazzle Media