On Day Two at Spikes Asia 2014, BrandOpus CEO Nir Wegrzyn and senior account director Bex Deere took the audience through some ads which were controversial and sported a clear gender bias.
Wegrzyn: “ASDA is a very large supermarket chain in the UK. The ad shows the woman in the kitchen and it received hundreds of complaints. ASDA responded by saying that the ad was extremely well research and worked well for its TG and touched the lives of those moms who shop with the super market.”
Schrader Universal Valve Caps
Wegrzyn: “There’s a semi-naked girl in this print ad. The girl has nothing to do with valves. The only connect is that maybe the TG likes the picture.”
Tom Ford for Men perfumes
Diesel - Sex Sells
Referring to the Levis and Coca Cola ads, he said, “Both these ads are extremely successful. But, there’s a question, 'Is it okay, if the man is objectified in a sexual manner?' If the ads featured women as the protagonists, they would never release. So, you can’t get away from the gender trap. Psychology tells us that gender is critically important to industries if we are to have real insights into people.”
He followed this by showing some more ‘controversial’ ads.
“This has to be the most iconic ad in the UK. It’s relevant as it’s selling a bra and showing a bra. The ad had so many complaints and was demanded to be taken off,” remarked Wegrzyn.
He then put up the ad for Dove to celebrate ‘real curves’.
He said, “I don’t think this ad is very different from Wonderbra. How is this okay? In fact in this one the women are even touching each other. They’re not even selling bras – they’re selling creams. The difference is that Dove is not celebrating beauty but confidence and self esteem. That brings me to ask the question, 'Why are people offended by the idea of just beautiful and where do we draw the line?'"
American Apparel – Back to school
“I find this ad disturbing. This received hundreds of complains and was banned. American Apparel came up with their defence which said, the model wasn’t from school and was actually aged 30. She portrayed a happy, relaxed and confident self. They also claimed that it was only put up online where people above 18 could only view it,” said Wegrzyn.
The above ad was banned soon.
Should we be banning ads?
Wegrzyn argued that the answer to the above issues was not banning the ads (some of them were banned). He explained, “For 1,500 years, people have been banning ads in Europe. The issue here is that we are no longer allowed to freely debate ads about gender. When an idea is no longer up for debate, all creativity is lost. I think times are changing. Could the ‘Wonderbra’ ad be released today? I don’t know the answer.”
“I think you can label something offensive only when you find out that it treats people as objects. I don’t think banning an ad makes sense, boycotting it (the brand) is better. As soon as you ban something, the next ad is going to be more shocking to get more attention.”
Wegrzyn then spoke about how brands like Nike, Starbucks and Apple may fall into the same category of gender bias.
He said, “Nike is derived from a Greek Goddess of victory. Her wings create the swoosh on the brand. Also, I think its first ad was pretty sexist.”
“Even Apple’s logo belongs to the battle of the sexes. As soon as the bite was taken, the Apple became a specific apple. It wasn’t Newton’s apple, or the Beatles’ Apple, or Snow White's. It’s the apple from the Garden of Eden. ”
The first Apple Mac ad was 'a bit biased' too, according to the speaker.
Wegrzyn surmised with a piece of advice: “Don’t be afraid of expressing ideas through genders if they are relevant to your brand. It is time to kill the gender cliche but... Gender is important.”