Erik Oster for AgencySpy:
We watch a lot of bad ads over the course of a given year, but every so often something comes around so blatantly offensive that it merits special attention.
On the one hand of the spectrum we have the type of work awarded for the Cannes Glass Lion, which was introduced in 2015 to celebrating work combatting gender stereotypes. This year’s winner was VMLY&R Poland’s “The Last Ever Issue,” which saw the agency buy a pornographic magazine in Poland just to shut it down. (That’s not to say that Cannes Lions juries haven’t been guilty of misogyny themselves, but more on that later.)
On the other end of the spectrum we have Ogilvy Bolivia’s new banking ad for BCO [sic], which gleefully rehashes gender stereotypes from advertising’s past. (BCP) The spot features a man approach a woman sitting alone at a bar and pull out a pair of degrees. When she tries to speak, he shushes her and holds a finger up to her mouth, adding that he’s a tennis champion and pointing to his expensive car and savings account before asking if she wants to leave with him. The point of all this?
“That’s how a bank looks like trying to sell you all its products,” a voiceover interrupts. Groan.
BCP, on the other hand, is like the guy at the other end of the bar who simply asks to buy her a drink, apparently.
Not only does the premise come across as offensive (suggesting the woman is simply a “customer” who banks are trying to win over) it also just doesn’t make any sense. The woman finally being given a modicum of agency at the ad’s conclusion by deciding she will be the one to order the drinks is a pathetic attempt to justify what precedes it as anything other than an excuse to justify a cheap, sexist premise that feels like a relic of a bygone era.
While it would be tempting to dismiss this is as an aberration more at home in the Mad Men era, such sexist ads remain a problem in the industry. Despite its Glass Lion category, Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity has even awarded such work in recent years. In 2016, a Cannes jury awarded a bronze Lion in the outdoor category to an Almap BBDO campaign for Bayer aspirin which made suggestive references to the non-consensual filming of a sexual act with messages such as “‘Don’t Worry Babe, I’m Not Filming This’.Mov” in to reference the need for a pain reliever.
We look forward to a time when we don’t see such ads anymore. The U.K. took a step in that direction recently with a law expressly banning the use of harmful gender stereotypes in advertising.