Opinion

The intricacies of advertising in a post-Weinstein era

In our #metoo age, brands must work harder than ever before to successfully pass the gender litmus test, explains Bec Brideson.

In this post-Harvey era, gender truth bombs continue to drop with familiar shapes and accelerating frequency. The recent Golden Globes was a sea of black gowns and stirring speeches – Oprah especially sent a message that rippled around the world that our gender awakening is here to stay.

Recognition and support for enlightened and fair workplace behaviours is irreversibly getting the serious attention it deserves. The moral responsibility is acknowledged and understood and plans are already underway. So isn’t it time we turn our attention to Australian businesses and fast-forward our exploration of the ethical, social and economic obligations and yet-unexplored opportunities?

Thankfully the ‘pH’ test is here to help us. Which side of the business litmus will you register – pre-Harvey or post? There are businesses that will continue to uphold the pre-Harvey status quo and gamble on staying fixed while consumer bases and society values continue to evolve. And then there will be those that are actively deciding to usher in the necessary behaviour-change to reap the rewards that come from post-Harvey enlightenment.

Last Easter, Coles found themselves testing too acidic when they created a PR disaster with the campaign “I’m Free!” The ill-conceived execution of what was probably a great insight about in-store service instead became a demonstration of innuendo reminiscent of an outdated joke from British sitcom “Are You Being Served?” Even pre-Harvey, this registered as unacceptable.

Now, just imagine trying to present this idea in a post-Harvey world? It would be a foolish choice with Mrs Slocombe’s cat now well and truly out of the bag – forever.

All of these half-baked gender-roles are at best lazy creative vehicles and will now be high-risk business in a post-Harvey world.

Businesses and brands like Ultra Tune that continue to behave with blatant disregard for gender are also due for expiry. Whilst they have spent years surviving on outrage, “rubber girls” and the dumbing down of Australian consumers, it is unlikely we’ll see change.

Their overly corrosive pH suggests even a fresh progressive narrative now may fail to repair damage with women and woke men – especially after their latest campaign effort features convicted rapist and former boxer Mike Tyson.

Hopefuly there will come a day where advertising creatives refuse to write sexist sludge for Ultra Tune CEO Sean Buckley and take up a pledge similar to Nick Cummins’ “Say No to No.” If you disagree with saying no to sexism, Don Burke has a few empty seats next to him.

Brand activism is now reality with 60% of people in a recent Edelman study agreeing that brands “doing good” should be part of their DNA. Through an alignment of values, the visionary CEOs and CMOs amongst us can now consider gender as an intelligent tool to leverage in business.

If women will account for 75% of discretionary spend within the next decade then the gender-lens is becoming a must-have-now, not a maybe-we’ll-have-sometime-down-the-line. Discrimination and human rights have gone from black-box issues to transparent boxes business must embrace as core to their growth models.

Consumer and labour influence has shifted, dramatically and emphatically towards ‘female’. Women won’t just be expecting more from their employers, their peers and their leaders. They will be expecting even more from brands, and choosing those who truly get this power shift right.

This is your opening to embrace change by seeing gender as a strength and a powerful differentiator; not an irrelevant factor or a prickly complication. The sands are shifting underfoot, and this is your golden goose opportunity to commit a significant part of your business development, brainpower and resources towards the opportunity of gender.

The sides of history are being drawn and we have witnessed how this ‘pH’ world can revolutionise or rescind a leader’s reputation, brand power, business profit in an instant. We’re only a month into 2018 and the gender lens is already transforming the social contract, and eventually everything else.

It is time to become discerning because # or not – time is up.

Bec Brideson helps businesses and brands through better understanding the power of gender differences.

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