Category Archives: Advertising

Facebook Continues to Fight on Behalf of the Bastards

(via @EveryDaySexism and  Calling on feminist programmers: It’s time for a mass exodus from Facebook.)

Facebook has been taking a bit of a kicking from feminists recently. Since they have decided that:

  1. Images women upload of themselves breastfeeding are indecent and should be removed.
  2. Images men upload of unconscious women with ‘hilarious’ captions such as “Roofies: Just too easy” are perfectly acceptable and should stay up.

The number of such images/groups which upload such images which have been reported and ignored boggles belief. Women Action Media has started the #FBRape campaign, to try to pressure advertisers into removing their ads for as long as Facebook continues to endorse violence against women.

I am so behind this. Companies will continue to do whatever they like until people organise and pressure them in unity. Facebook is no different. The people advertise with them need to understand that their adverts indirectly support this kind of behaviour. This is the best kind of activism – it is easy to get involved, it will make a real difference if successful and most of all it’s effective. A quick flick through Women Action Media’s website will get you to a list of their victories so far.

However, it takes more than merely organising to stop those geniuses at Facebook from being total pricks. The main link at the top of this post is from a woman who has been banned from Facebook for asking them to stop letting vile posts stay on their website. It boggles my fucking mind. Cyber-feminism has clearly never been more important – many props to all the people fighting to make a difference.


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Good Marketing, Weird Product

When I got home this morning, it turned out the steps to my flat had all clubbed together and bought me a gift. At least, that’s my understanding, as I can’t imagine someone delivering this door to door:

Normally, I ignore these circulars. They’re annoying, they’re intrusive, and I live in a block so we always get 4 of each one that arrives. This one, however, piqued my interest. First, a quick look at the back tells me this is a company called Shaftesbury’s.
Nope. I’ve never heard of them either.
Also, it’s very very pretty. A quick check of the Dulux paint range tells me the colour on the graphic is called Lindi’s Pass, and very nice it is too. These guys didn’t just grab some two-bit takeaway menu designer to do this, no sir.
But it’s also wonderfully enigmatic. I “know I want them…”, do I? What are “them”? There are plenty of things on this earth which I know desperately that I want, and am a mere 30% offer away from purchasing. I’m ultimately as suggestible to advertising as the next person, despite my wishes otherwise, and there are plenty of things that I believe I could buy to make me smarter, more attractive, or to get rid of the shooting pains in spine every time I try to turn my head.
And maybe Shaftesbury’s has the answer to at least one of these problems. So I open the leaflet (printed on very nice 400gsm card, btw), to be greeted with the following:
Ah, wrapped inside my enigma is a mystery! Like Russian politics in the 80’s. What are they selling? Bedroom sets? Red throws? Sunlight? And in a further nod to quality, this leaflet is a concertina. Real pages! In a leaflet.
Important: I’m going to rip into this a little bit, but I much prefer this to fucking takeaway menus. I’m not the target group for this circular, and this marketing is good enough that Shaftesbury’s will probably see more business as a result, and all power to them.
Shutters! The thing which has been missing from my life? Presumably (given that they sell shutter), Shaftesbury’s is full of people who really really love shutters. Maybe their view of how the world works has been distorted by being around blinds for so long. They’re looking at the world through rose-tinted shutters, if you like.
But I really don’t give a fuck about blinds or shutters. I already have some on my windows and I still look like Quasimodo’s evil twin so they haven’t made me any more attractive. I suppose there are people out there who are waiting for their opportunity to by some beautiful, practical, interior shutters, but I’m not one of them.
My favourite section is near the end, where they feel it’s important to remind that the offer is indeed “genuine”, as if anyone outside of politics or supermarket marketing departments would spend this much money on lying to their base. 
Also a favourite, not easy to read on this picture is the sentence: “Shutters have spread virally.” Have they now? Because I thought the word virally had two meanings: passing through the internet as an essentially memetic version of a real virus, or a REAL VIRUS. And I don’t recall any videos called “Cute baby shutter! Falling asleep!!!!” on Youtube with 8,325,673 hits and hundreds of racist comments. Nor am I sitting in fear of the latest shutter outbreak and the zombie apocalypse which will inevitably follow.

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Sexism in Adverts

Well done to the man who put this together. I’ve been planning on talking about adverts again when my rage about the real world dies down a bit, but at least this is something which is just as successful at making my teeth clench as institutionalised racism or mainstream left-wing politics.

If any of you didn’t think we’re boxed into gender roles from day one, try the advert mashup game, then quietly weep to yourself.

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Boots and Adverts

I was wrong. I blogged a while ago that adverts which try to sell by pushing traditional roles on people annoy me. I also said that it doesn’t happen too often. That’s the bit where I was wrong.

I used to passively get annoyed at them – if I happened to notice anything was wrong iu’d get me, but since writing that post I’ve spotted these issues more often.

Let me offer another example which has annoyed me for a long time (one day I promise I’ll talk about adverts which annoy me for reasons other than sexism): the recent round of Boots adverts. I’m going to pick a particularly egregious version of these ads.

It’s a good thing for Boots that they have disabled comments for this page. As well as avoiding the random homeopathy spammers which I assume go after pharmacies, this is the sort of advert which brings out the MRAs in their droves.

Since I’m a sucker for punishment, I thought I’d see if I could find any such opinions and it wasn’t difficult (even I’m not crazy enough to start hunting through places like Reddit, though). First, why adverts like this aren’t anti-men: if two people are equally sick and one gets to rest while the other one has to work all the harder, who do think has the role power?

As a person who is not a woman, I can’t speak from experience about how misogyny harms women. I’ve talked about why men should be feminists for selfish reasons, but here there is only one reason to consider this advert sexist: it patronises women as unpaid servants to their over-sensitive man-child partners and then has the gall to put music over top which implies it is somehow empowering. “Yes, you can [find better ways to please your man]!!!1!” is not an empowering message, it’s deeply patronising and teaching people to rationalise a culture gender-stereotyping.

Noooooow, back to the over-sensitive men-children:

[T]hey have managed to portray men as stupid, incapable and lazy whilst implying that “The girls” have the answer to everything. 

Ah, the “this portrays men as bad – why aren’t the men portrayed as superior in every way?!” remark. Ultimately this advert, along with many of the others, doesn’t portray women as having the answer to everything, but merely being servile.

Of course there are adverts for men that could be considered sexist but I don’t think any of them attack women so blatently [sic].

Except, perhaps, Yorkie’s “it’s not for girls”, the endless Fairy Liquid/Febreeze/Mr. Muscle showing women doing all the housework, Lynx ads, about a third of all posters I see on the tube that aren’t for West End shows and all adverts for female beauty products which portray any deviation from the “standard” female body type as undesirable. And Lynx.

In fact, the erstwhile author correctly identifies the Lynx ads as sexist, but believes that it’s okay because the Lynx effect is “meant to be more of a fantasy”. Sure – the really really really blatant kind of sexism is fine as long as women are getting undressed while it’s happen. Excuse me while I go and spank a stranger.

Women can laugh all they want, they’re just jealous of our bigger brains and general hardiness 

Aaand I’m back. No comment for this one, but I challenge anyone to read this and not shudder at the thought that you might actually know this person – I’m sure somebody has to.

Only women shop at Boots anyway so who cares?

And the award for misunderstanding the issue goes to… Mr. the above. And I close with some helpful advice for any self-respecting Real Man(TM) from one of our more flagrant of commentators. If ever you find yourself telling a woman to shut up and make a sandwich, and for the briefest moment realise what a bottom-feeding, waste-of-air piece of human offal you are, remember these words as a reminder of just how much worse you could be, and that is still hope for you yet top become a real human being:

I think you’re menstruating, frankly.
Have a can of man the **** up already

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I’m getting more and more annoyed by adverts. Hopefully, I’ll start talking about adverts in more detail over time, but for now I think I’ll stick to just one example and preface it with my feelings about adverts in general.

I have one of those intensely analytical minds. I don’t really mean that in an arrogant or even a positive way. I analyse everything around me to an insane degree, to the point where my girlfriend won’t let me get started on rants anymore.

Adverts are one such target of my limitless ire. I understand that adverts are there to sell to products to people, and that there’s going to be an element of coercion inherent in a lot of them. That’s okay. In fact, if adverts weren’t being pushy and trying to make me buy a product, then they wouldn’t be doing their job.

Come to think about it, that’s exactly half of the reason why many adverts annoy me – they just aren’t any good. To gain a competitive advantage over your competitors, your advert has to either be better than theirs or you have to hope they don’t bother to advertise at all. So why does every single price comparison site create a single annoying mascot and then reuse and reuse and reuse them until the only thing left to contemplate is whether these site compare prices for assassins?

Then comes the second reason, and it’s one which happens less often but gets me far more annoyed when it does: pushing traditional lifestyle roles on people to try to tell them how they should act (and what they should buy). Often this comes in the form of gender roles – when was the last time you saw a man worried about whether his carpets smelled stale in an advert? Nope, it’s only women, and of course according to the advertisers any self respecting woman is absurdly houseproud, and couldn’t live without regularly giving her soft furnishings a good dose of Febreeze.

The problem here is that ‘traditional’ gender roles are a holdover from a past rampant with misogyny, where women stayed at home, cleaned and looked after their two god-fearing children while the man went out and won some bread while simultaneously slaying a bear. Every call back to this absurd idea that ‘men’ are in charge and women are essentially faithful house cleaners raises the hackles of inner feminist. Still, it could be worse. I could have Sky Sports.

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