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5 marketing campaigns that crushed gender stereotypes

18th August 2017 Marketing

Imagine a bloke in the kitchen doing the dishes, clumsily breaking plates and spilling water all over the place – what a silly man! Now imagine his wife cleaning up after him because he’s so incompetent that she has to pick up the pieces. In fact, he is such a fail that she agrees to do all of the household tasks single-handedly from now on through fear that he will mess up.

That doesn’t really sound right, does it? Not only are these stereotypes detrimental to the economy and society, but they are harmful to the way we perceive ourselves and the way we measure ourselves against others.

Unfortunately, much of this stereotyping takes place in the marketing/advertising world. These industries influence so many aspects of our lives – what we should wear, eat, buy, drink, how we should look, how we should act. And that’s exactly why the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has vowed to take a tougher approach when approving ads and marketing campaigns.

Cracking down on inequality

In the past, the ASA has banned ads that promote inappropriate sexualisation and objectification, such as the American Apparel ad that features schoolgirls in short skirts bending over and exposing their underwear; or Yves Saint Laurent, who used ultra-thin, unhealthily skinny models to showcase their clothing in the UK edition of Elle.

However, some campaigns still slip through the net. Regulators still receive many complaints about ads making sexist stereotypes, suggesting that women and men should be ridiculously skinny, or, in some instances, for showing ads that mock people that do not conform to traditional roles. Some of these ads passed probation as they were deemed not in breach of guidelines.

Aptamil baby milk, for example, filmed girls growing up as dancers and boy as engineers. Complaints were also made about GAP’s ad which showed a girl transforming into a social butterfly, and a boy becoming an academic. In addition, a recent KFC advert features one man being teased by his peers for lacking masculinity, after admitting that he suffered from anxiety.

But times are changing, and the ASA is adamant that it will crack down on campaigns adhering to gender stereotypes. Below, we take a look at five inspirational marketing campaigns that are smashing these outdated stereotypes right out of the park. If you can think of any more, do let us know and comment below!

The campaigns empowering women and men worldwide

1.Always: Like a girl

Too often the phrase ‘like a girl’ is given negative connotations. That is, until feminine hygiene brand Always released their new marketing ad campaign back in 2014. With the aim of shattering the illusion that acting like a girl is synonymous with inferiority and weakness, Always created a video that aimed to challenge this stereotype and show that women are strong and confident.

2. Dove: Real beauty

Taking on board that fact that women probably don’t want to be bombarded with images of photo shoots glamour models and skinny women in their Versace swimsuits, Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ campaign showcases women of all shapes and sizes in their underwear. The brand’s objective was to redefine traditional perceptions of beauty, encouraging women to love the skin they are in!

3. Burger King: Proud Whopper

Back in 2014, Burger King created the Proud Whopper to celebrate the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade. The limited-edition burger comes wrapped in a rainbow-coloured sheet of paper. I think the Guardian sums it all up pretty nicely too: “What else made the burger different? Absolutely nothing. Because we’re all the same inside. Zing.” – that’s right!

4.Barbie: Imagine the possibilities

What springs to mind when you think of Barbie? Long fake blonde hair, fake boobs, a perfectly-formed fake waistline? Not anymore! The franchise’s Imagine the Possibilities campaign aims to leave a refreshingly positive impact of the lives of young girls, inspiring them to reach for the stars and achieve their goals. The heartwarming video features five girls discussing their dream careers: a college professor, a soccer coach, a veterinarian, a businesswoman, and a museum tour guide.

5.Pot Noodle: You can make it

Here’s a roundup of the Pot Noodle video advert: A skinny man dreams of making it big, he trains hard in the gym for a boxing match, but, in a twist of plot, it turns out that he’s the sexy round card holder, not the boxer. The campaign challenges typical views of gender – not all men are massive and muscular; heck, not all men want to fight. It’s all about achieving your dreams and putting in the elbow grease to reach them – regardless of what they may be! It’s no surprise this video was viewed over 1.4 million times in the space of a month!

Hope for the future

With the new guidelines in place from the ASA, it is hoped that we will continue to make a step in the right direction. “Portrayals which reinforce outdated and stereotypical views on gender roles in society can play their part in driving unfair outcomes for people,” Guy Parker, chief executive of the ASA explains.

“While advertising is only one of many factors that contribute to unequal gender outcomes, tougher advertising standards can play an important role in tackling inequalities and improving outcomes for individuals, the economy and society as a whole.”

With this in mind, marketers need to be savvy when addressing gender issues and concerns. Content writers need to produce appropriate text. Video producers need to show that men and women can break away from their gender stereotypes. What do our clients want? They want to be inspired and empowered, made to feel that all lives matter. Marketing and advertising need to take this into consideration if we are to truly smash these gender stereotypes to pieces!

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