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Officeworks draws on ‘tired stereotypes’: Mums celebrate school supplies while dads play cricket

Officeworks is targeting mothers and fathers separately in two editions of its back to school ads created by AJF Partnership, running on TV, radio, digital and social media.

The first spot features a group of women celebrating having completed new school year shopping, while three young girls squeal over a range of pink, glittery lunch boxes and stationery. The second ad shows a pair of dads playing backyard cricket with their sons, with each age group reflecting on the other’s excitement for the return to school.

In response to Mumbrella’s question about the motivations of separating the spots by gender and the suggestion of stereotypes, an Officeworks statement said: “The purpose of our campaign is to capture the joy of back to school – especially after the disruptive year to education in 2020 – and the role that a mother, father or carer can all play or experience in different ways with their children.”

Late last year, Women’s Health Victoria launched the ‘shEqual’ campaign to combat the use of gender stereotypes and sexism in advertising.

When approached by Mumbrella regarding the campaign, Dianne Hill, the CEO of Women’s Health Victoria, said the campaign was ‘disappointing’.

“It’s disappointing to see this campaign trading in tired old stereotypes of mums doing the ‘back to school’ shop and making cakes, and girls getting excited about pink stationery, while the dads and boys play backyard cricket,” Hill said.

“These kinds of stereotypes are still all too common in Australian advertising: women portrayed as housewives and mothers; girls valuing beauty and fashion; men and boys unconcerned with household tasks, engaged in physical activity. These gender stereotypes reinforce outdated and harmful ideas about the role of men and boys and women and girls in society. And they don’t sell.

“Research shows that ads that show women in non-stereotypical ways drive purchase intent and increase brand reputation.

“shEqual calls on brands and creatives to do better – to use advertising to challenge gender stereotypes and promote more diverse and authentic portrayals of people of all genders.”

AJF Partnership was  approached for comment but failed to respond at the time of publishing.

Officeworks general manager marketing and insights, Jess Richmond, said of the campaign: “Given the many challenges that Australians have faced in 2020, we want parents to feel empowered and in control of their Back to School expenses in 2021, and even have a little fun while getting their children’s school list supplies.

“We know that many parents are time-poor and have the added stress of work, home and family responsibilities, so finding the time for the back to school shop can be challenging.”

The campaign will also be supported by a CRM program, PR, influencer engagement and in-store activity.

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