Since returning to America, I’ve had the chance to watch a fair bit of daytime television. This also means that I’ve had the chance to watch a fair bit of daytime advertising. The ads (appropriately so) are demographically split pretty evenly between retired people and women, since these are the two groups most likely to be at home during the day. After noticing the glaring sexism in a recent insurance campaign, I started paying closer attention to the rest of the products being marketed to female consumers.
To say I was less than impressed with their strategy would be a gross understatement. Stepping away from the ad trend a few years ago of poking fun at “doofy” husbands, it seems that advertisers now think wives have completely given up on thinking fondly about their hapless mates and moved on to thinking about greener (and often younger) pastures. The first to catch my eye was a Liquid Plumr spot that does its best (worst?) to spoof more x-rated viewing.
While you’re letting that gem sink in, let me explain how this is not just a one-off ad. It’s actually part of a larger campaign supposedly meant to “inform” women about plumbing issues. I put that word in quotes because all they really seem to do is insult women’s intelligence by assuming:
- They don’t know how to unclog a drain
- They want to ogle men rather than learn how to unclog a drain
- In the end, they’d rather someone else just unclog it for them
Oh, and also, apparently women are just dying to get “double-teamed” by two sexy workmen. I legit cannot believe they actually went there, especially considering that the parent company of Liquid Plumr is Clorox. Their corporate site has a very extensive explanation of their code of conduct (which you can download here), and I’ve excerpted a section I think is relevant:
Driven by our passionate desire to do the right thing, every day, our commitment to family well-being is core to who we are, and we are proud to continue the tradition of strengthening our communities.
It goes on to explain their harassment policy, although when I clicked on the link for the full anti-harassment policy I could not read it without an employee password.
Harassment of an individual in the workplace (whether or not they are an employee) for any reason, including race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, marital status, citizenship status, religion, age, physical or mental disability, ancestry, veteran status or any other protected category is strictly prohibited. Harassment of an employee off Clorox premises is also prohibited. Retaliation against anyone for rejecting sexual advances, making a good faith report of discrimination or harassment or providing information or assistance in the investigation of such a report will not be tolerated.
Despite this very public posting of their code of conduct, they seem to think it’s perfectly fine to harass potential consumers. Or, I guess I should say former potential consumers, because I’m not buying anything from them anytime soon.
Speaking of harassment, Dannon has also gone completely off the deep end while attempting (and, in my opinion, failing) to be funny. They’re running a series of ads with John Stamos, where women can’t keep their lips off him. I guess he’s meant to be a sort of metaphor for the yogurt? It’s all very unclear to me, as I was blinded by rage.
Hey, fellas! Want a lady to put her mouth in your lap? Just drizzle a little yogurt on your junk. Ladies can’t resist the call of the yogurt.
But apparently it’s ok, because they get interrupted by two more guys who just happen to be in the room watching her lick yogurt off him. So, don’t worry about the demeaning dairy foreplay, because it never actually leads to anything. Something tells me that this is also contrary to the company policies at parent company Danone, who has this to say about diversity:
Following on from the open-mindedness and culture of difference which Danone wishes to preserve, diversity must manifest itself in balance, representativeness, respect and even confrontation… We must be able to evaluate it, measure it, and nurture it. The company must promote diversity as an opportunity everywhere; a source of performance and team agility rather than a regulatory requirement. Danone has set itself priorities: to promote equality between women and men, to encourage the mixing of generations, to support the representation of cultures and nationalities, to improve variety in career paths and qualifications.
They even go so far as to demonstrate their empowerment of women with this handy infographic.
Maybe if their executive core was comprised of more than 13.5% women, they’d be able to actually promote equality between men and women, rather than just talk about it.
Runners-up in this race to the bottom include Hefty and Renuzit, who both trot out a veritable stable of men for you to fantasize about.
Hefty tries to mitigate it by also throwing in a “regular” guy, but it just comes across as too little, too late.
Renuzit doesn’t even attempt to mask its intentions, with an ad campaign titled Choose Them All. Just in case you didn’t get enough leering in during the 15-second ad, their YouTube channel has behind-the-scenes footage of all the men being sultry in slow-motion.
If you want me to buy your products, the sales pitch really isn’t all that complicated - Just show a little respect. Give me a commercial that shows scientifically why Hefty bags are stronger. Did you invent a new material? Is it the process? Does that strong bag still biodegrade? This is how I’d like to make my purchasing decision.
Now, I know, you only have a limited time to make an impression. Generally that’s only 15-30 seconds. And, you want that impression to be memorable. You’d also probably like to be edgy, or some other equivalent buzzword. When you sexualize a product in order to sell it, the impression is memorable but not favorable. Treat me, treat women, treat all people with the respect and dignity you’ve so carefully outlined in your corporate statements, and you’ll earn my brand loyalty.