By Anthony Colangelo
As outrage erupts over another “awful, misogynistic” high-profile ad campaign, there are signs emerging that the advertising industry is beginning to take a tougher stance on sexism.
This week, Coca-Cola was attacked for its Sprite ad campaign in Ireland, which caused offence for “degrading and disgusting” slogans.
One ad was adorned with the tag line: “You’re not popular … you’re easy #BrutallyRefreshing”.
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Coca-Cola claimed the Sprite campaign was meant to challenge political correctness, but it backfired.
“She’s seen more ceilings than Michelangelo,” another tagline said.
AP Corkhill wrote on Twitter: “Is it #BrutallyRefreshing to call @Sprite ‘a-so-far-removed-from-reality, boys-club, failing-at-balancing-niche-and-edgy, bunch-of-cretins’?”.
Despite that, an advertising expert says “there is change happening” in the industry, following two recent high-profile decisions to act on misogyny.
— Cristiana De Lia (@CristianaDeLia) August 3, 2016
— ♡ Brenna ♡ (@BrennaKeane) July 22, 2016
University of Canberra advertising expert, assistant professor Petra Bouvain, told The New Daily that the problems were longstanding ones.
“There is definitely sexism in advertising,” Bouvain said. “The good old saying of ‘sex sells’ still is relevant. Especially in particular product areas, like alcohol.
“It has a long history with the way women are depicted in mass advertising.
“I think change already has happened. Girls that study with me they stand up for themselves and call things out.
“They do not think it is impossible for them to have a career in the industry.”
— Desmond Farrelly (@desfarrelly3) April 12, 2016
— Stephen Byrne (@stephenbyrne) July 22, 2016
— Bread and Butter D9 (@BreadButterD9) July 23, 2016
Sexism gaffe forces advertising’s biggest resignation
The Sprite campaign was dropped by Coca-Cola, which apologised for any offence caused.
The apology came as one of the world’s most influential advertising executives resigned after making sexist comments about women in his industry.
Kevin Roberts – chairman of global giant advertising agency Saatchi and Saatchi – told Business Insider last week that the “debate is over” when it comes to gender diversity in advertising.
None of the six major advertising agency CEOs are women. A 2014 survey found that despite making up 46.4% of the advertising industry’s work force, only 11.5% of creative directors were female.
That number was an improvement, the survey found.
When asked if the gender debate issue was a big talking point in his industry Roberts responded: “Not in my view.”
He said he did not spend “any time” on gender parity problems in his agencies.
Roberts then seemed to try and generalise the goals that young women had in his industry.
“We have a bunch of talented, creative females, but they reach a certain point in their careers … Ten years of experience, when we are ready to make them a creative director of a big piece of business. And I think we fail in two out of three of those choices because the executive involved said: ‘I don’t want to manage a piece of business and people – I want to keep doing the work’.”
Roberts’ resignation came after giant consumer goods conglomerate Unilever’s decision in June to ditch sexist imagery in its advertising.
Bouvain agreed that the Unilever case and Mr Roberts’ resignation were proof the advertising industry was beginning to change.