According to the latest silly survey on advertising, men are fed up with
being portrayed by advertisers as downtrodden in the boardroom and sex
objects. Come again?
Lots of media people phoned Campaign about it. A nice hack from
Birmingham was typical: ‘Is it a story or what? What ads are they
talking about?’ I wasn’t much help. I dredged up the crass Cherie Lunghi
Kenco coffee ads (downtrodden in boardroom) and maybe Levi’s and Flash
(sex objects). We both agreed it wasn’t really much of a story, and then
he said he had to do it anyway, so could I try to agree with the
If you managed to wade through the Sunday Times’s top 100 ‘underpaid-
overpaid’ bosses list, you won’t have seen even one ‘underpaid’ head
woman honcho listed, because there weren’t any women reported as being
in charge. And that’s the truth about the boardroom. Which is why, I
suppose, the ‘joke’ is legitimate - imagine the outrage if the Kenco
roles were reversed.
And, let’s be honest, what male do you know, even in these reconstructed
(what does that mean?) times, who is going to come home to his partner
in the evening, watch a hunky male on telly and start complaining: ‘Tsk!
Will you look at that? I’m just sick and tired of being portrayed as a
sex object.’ Where do they find their respondents?
But there is a lesson agencies can learn from all this; and it’s one
that some are strangely resistant to. Simply put, the media are a
pushover. Most advertising ‘trends’ are formed on the back of one or two
commercials. Remember ‘new man’? Our office poll recalls only the bloke
driving his kid to sleep around the block for Rover. The only other ads
we could come up with (Bisto, McDonald’s) feature ‘new man’ in what is
sadly a dysfunctional family, i.e. he’s separated.
We may be sick of reading about advertising in the papers, but then
we’re not representative of the great British public, which happily laps
it up. Sometimes it’s obvious why. There’s no great mystery about the
coverage Wonderbra has generated - how many of the stories that appear
do not have an accompanying huge visual? However, Papa and Nicole are a
different ballgame, as are ads as diverse as Tango, Oxo, Gold Blend,
John Smith’s and PG Tips.
Sex and shock ads are the easy route to media coverage, but they are not
the only way. Agencies often phone Campaign to whinge about their
profile or lack of coverage, and bleat about the likes of Howell Henry
Chaldecott Lury and M&C Saatchi. The answer is simple. Messrs Howell and
Saatchi (and all who sail with them) have made careers - their own and
their clients - through playing the media. And the key to their success?
Well, interesting work helps, but the real key is returning journalists’