Mad Men can change the world

By Susan Murray, Zero Tolerance Co-director

You can’t beat a powerful advertising campaign. They have the potential to make you stop, reflect, change your perceptions or buying habits. However, in this world of mass media, it’s harder to get messages heard above the noise.

Anyone that has been involved behind the scenes in advertising or marketing, or even fans of Mad Men will understand the time and thought that goes into advertising brands and marketing.

But with every successful campaign there have also been many failures. Brew Dog Pink would come into that category for me. Despite their claims of 'satire', it missed the mark.

This week Zero Tolerance submitted a response to the Advertising Standard Authority consultation on Gender Stereotyping in Advertising (read our response at the bottom of the page). Advertising is important because it affects how people see themselves and the world around them.

Unfortunately this means that the way we see ourselves is too often shaped by pervasive gender stereotypes that occur in marketing. Our 2015 research 'The Default Setting' found that 60% of parents reported their children seeing gender stereotyping occurring most frequently in children’s TV and media.

For example, the marketing for Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls. It’s a worldwide best seller and now has a second volume and there are many similar imitations. I love reading the stories to my young daughters and I’ve learnt a lot about amazing women from all over the world.

But the branding is frustrating.

The marketing targets only girls and has discouraged some parents purchasing it to read to their sons. This has been picked up and there is now a similar book aimed at boys – but it's only stories about men that have changed the world. While the book aims to provide an alternative to the “stereotypical idea of masculinity", we still need boys to read about amazing, talented and strong women. We need boys to hold role models of all genders. We need to stop artificially segmenting children’s worlds in this way.

So please marketeers, this is 2018. It’s #generationequal. Please move beyond stereotypes and the assumption that boys are only interested in tales of male adventure and strength. Your actions and choices can perpetuate inequality and violence against women – or they can help change the world for the better.

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