Miruna Codeanu

Sexism, stereotypes and marketing

In espresso on January 11, 2013 at 7:13 am

I was taking a look at the latest ad for the Guardian introducing the Observer Weekend starring Hugh Grant. This is the ad:

For the first 20 seconds we can see Hugh Grant endorsing the Guardian. The next twenty something seconds are occupied by a couple’s dialogue: he is into cultural-artistic stuff, while she’s looking over the new salmon recipe. The ad was release two days ago and I’m definitely waiting for sexism accusations. I’m definitely not into feminism but I can recognize a stereotype when i see it, and I see some accusations coming for the Guardian. From there on it’s going on to be the endless dispute whether media should educate their audiences.

I’ve been seeing numberless sexism accusations for ads, prints and generally speaking marketing campaigns. We do live in the age of social media, but it’s only the beginning. Marketers are trying to communicate with individuals but it’s not yet possible, or even if it’s possible the costs of doing so would make marketing not profitable for the time being. So, marketers still communicate with groups of people.

In order to reach those groups of people for whom their product is made they identify those groups by their common traits. So, generally and statistically speaking between men and women, women cook more. So, yes, in order to sell a newspaper containing recipes, a marketer will try to appeal to them by the latest salmon recipe. No, marketers won’t sell dolls to baby boys, because generally and statistically speaking, girls play with dolls.  And no, marketers don’t want to talk to exceptions unless their target are the exceptions and even for those they will find stereotypes.

Earlier this morning, I was talking about cartoons with a friend of mine. Jokingly, my friend says: “Oh my, those old fashioned cartoons were awesome: sexist, racist, antisemitic, you had where to choose from” . It was a joke, said as a joke and understood as a joke but there’s some truth to it: Daisy wore a giant pink bow and pink shoes, Minnie wore a giant red bow and black heels. We grew up like that, we were educated like that and we are an audience for marketers and in order to sell to us, marketers will need to speak our language. Until your sexless, stereotype-free generation grows up and can be called a consumer, the marketers will talk the language of these audience that  grew up thinking pink is for girls, blue is for boys, women will cook and clean the house, men will handle a screwdriver. True, times are changing, but contrary to popular belief change doesn’t cannot happen tomorrow.

Until the stereotype-free generation arrives, be rational and stop your hysteria over stereotypes,you are an audience to some marketer and that marketer will put you in a group with some other people, find your common traits and make you buy a product designed by your common issues, problems and desires.

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