Thursday, September 8, 2011

Responding to sexist advertising?

When a company uses offensive* advertising material, should you ignore them and quench the fires of publicity or should you draw attention to it so it is stopped?

This discussion started on Twitter a few weeks back thanks to @womenmediacentre and there doesn't seem to be a clear answer. It's popped up again in Ireland because of a series of adverts for .... a food product .... using women playing Gaelic football as the stars. I really don't want to link to the pictures so let me paint one for you - low-cut tops which wouldn't look out of place on a dance-floor, shorts which could pass for undies on a lingerie show, poses angling the models' best assets and enough make-up and hair-spray to fit out a team of beauty contestants.

The advertising complaints board here already banned this company from using a very similar series of adverts last year featuring rugby players and using almost all of the models in this year's shoot. I'm not sure of the legalities but this is definitely what you call sticking to the letter of the law and hanging the spirit out to dry.

So what to do - be all post-feminist about it and ignore them? stop buying the product? kick up a fuss?

*to me and many other people involved in sport


Emmet Ryan said...

As I said last year the chief aim of this campaign has been to draw complaint. Largo Foods crave words like 'sexist' and 'offensive' being used, not because they are accurate but because they are incendiary. They are a reaction which in and of themselves cause a reaction. The sporting context has the same objective, to draw a complaint from officialdom. The IRFU's response last year ensure the campaign ran and ran. The GAA and Cumann Peil na mBan recognised this and moved to deprive Largo of the oxygen of publicity by deflecting comment. The Camogie Association sadly bit, giving the controversy a bit of extra heat.

I can't be clear enough, the objective of these ads is neither to titillate nor objectify. It is squarely to create a controversy. They want to draw out a reaction, the only way to combat is via non-engagement. They feed off complaints and controversy but without them they starve.

niamh said...

@Emmet - sorry for the late reply Emmet. Yeah, that's how I feel too (hence not mentioned the company even though Irish readers would know what it is) but I do worry that if no-one complains then ads like this become seen as normal and ...