Thursday, August 28, 2014

Is this any way to change the perception of women in tech?

An specialized underwear company called "Dear Kate" had a cheeky idea to promote its wares while also celebrating diverse women who are crashing the technology industry "boys' club": get a bunch of female CEOs of tech companies to pose in their skivvies for the online catalogue.

Dear Kate is not an ordinary lingerie company. Its products were originally designed as a less-Dependsish for women suffering from incontinence, and has since branched out into promoting leakproof "period panties."

The Drum reports that the Ada Collection is named after Ada Lovelace, the woman who created the first algorithm intended to be carried out by a machine. And despite criticism, the women participating felt they were doing the right thing:

Adda Birnir, founder of SkillCrush [seen below] admitted to Time that she did have doubts: “I run a company and you’re trying to have gravitas when you’re a CEO. I was a little bit like, ‘Is it a bad idea to participate in an underwear modelling shoot?'” 
“But it’s a feminist company…and I think it’s so important to support companies that are doing work like that. That overshadowed any of my concerns.”

These women are clearly not just models, but willing participants in whatever this is trying to say.

Adrants quotes Dear Kate CEO, Julie Sygiel: "I think a lot of traditional lingerie photo shoots depict women as simply standing there looking sexy. They're not always in a position of power and control. In our photo shoots it's important to portray women who are active and ambitious. They're not just standing around waiting for things to happen."

However the blog's author, Steve Hall, counters:
Hey, I'm all for women wearing underwear and lingerie as often as possible but when so many are doing so much to battle stigmas and stereotypes relating to the perception of women in the workplace -- and the world at large, this just smacks the face of logic.
I'm not so sure, though. While this could have come off like the European Union's appalling "Science: It's a Girl Thing" video, it just doesn't feel the same. The photos are contrived, sure, and even a little silly. But SOMEONE has to make and model underwear for women. Why not use the opportunity to also demonstrate and inspire female leadership in business and technology?

All images via Dear Kate

It's not really up to me to decide if this is good or bad for women overall, because I'm not a woman. In my opinion, this campaign doesn't feel degrading or objectifying. But I urge women readers to weigh in.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Jack in the Box campaign mocks little people

I really long for the day when people with dwarfism are not a visual punchline in popular media.

Today is not that day:

Thanks to @copymatt for the tip.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Dumb e-cig ad is a throwback to a more racist era

This ad, from Belfast, is kind of shocking in its cluelessness. Taboo love between a mature white woman and a young black man! The scandal!

Fortunately, according to campaign, the Northern Irish didn't like it much either. The Advertising Standards Authority received several complaints, and ruled that "consumers viewing the ad would believe it was presenting a relationship between an older and younger individual, particularly an older woman and a younger man, and a couple of different races, as something that was unusual or socially unacceptable."

The ad has been ordered removed, which is always a touchy subject. I far prefer when brands willingly remove ads because it's in their best interests not to piss off customers by pretending it's still the 1950s.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Vancouver Transit Police apologize for victim-blaming ad

Another day, another ad campaign accused of blaming sexual assault victims. But this one has a positive lesson in it.

According to CBC, Vancouver Transit Police have agreed to remove this ad from Skytrain, following public complaints.

Transit Police spokesperson Anne Drennan stated that the victim-blaming was entirely unintentional, but added, "we see where they are coming from."

I work on campaigns like this, too, so I can see how this happened. The Copywriter was trying to use a clever turn of phrase, but didn't consider the unintended triggering of the word "shame" in the context. Neither did the client.

To their credit, however, Vancouver Transit Police have responded in a way that should be a teachable moment to other authorities creating campaigns that address the issue of sexual assault, either directly or indirectly.

First, they apologized with an acknowledgement that the wording could cause unintended harm. Then, they committed to removing the ads and replacing them with "new posters with wording approved by an advisory council that includes representatives from women's support groups."

Understand, apologize, fix the problem and show how you'll avoid it in the future. Is that so hard?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

8-year-old NHS PSA causes fresh outrage over victim blaming

Via Daily Mail

Patrick, a reader, made me aware of the latest example of an anti-binge-drinking ad that ends up promoting the culture of blaming victims of rape.

In this case, it's the UK government's National Health Service that is causing outrage.

The Drum reports that the poster actually dates back to 2006,  part of the "Know Your Limits" campaign, but it is still available as part of an online toolkit and posted in some health facilities.

A petition, launched recently, states:
Two honourable intentions -- to stop people drinking, and to stop rape happening - are being completely deformed. Of course we don't want people to drink so much they make themselves ill, but threatening them with rape by implication is not the way to do it. Of course we don't want anyone to endure sexual assault and rape, but making them feel like it's their fault if they do, is so far out of order. 
It is not consistent with the NHS' own guidelines on 'Help after rape and sexual assault' in which they say 'If you have been sexually assaulted, remember that it wasn’t your fault. It doesn’t matter what you were wearing, where you were or whether you had been drinking. A sexual assault is always the fault of the perpetrator.' This is a much more helpful approach, and we ask the NHS and the Home Office to destroy this poster in all formats. 
It currently has over 62,000 signatures.

There have been a number of prominent anti-alcohol campaigns in recent years that have hit these same triggers, including PSAs by MADD, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, CabWise and West Mercia Police.

The fact that the NHS campaign is an older one shows how far we've come in understanding the cultural issues around rape in just a few years, but it is also a reminder to keep your PSA libraries up-to-date.