KATE: Has advertising moved on from the 1950s pin up?


The times they are a changin’ but not if you work in advertising.

If you think feminism is done and dusted and women are portrayed respectfully in the media, take a look at this video.


When I was a young ‘un, working in ad agencies in the late 80s and 90s, I was blase about women being objectified in ads. I didn’t really care. I thought it was pretty silly, but not worth getting worked up about. Sheesh! What’s your problem girls? Those kinds of ads have been around forever. If you don’t like, don’t look. Blah blah blah. I don’t know why I was like that. Maybe because I was young, ambitious and thought advertising mattered. Maybe because I was surrounded by men and cared what they thought.

Kate Hunter

Now, I feel differently. I notice ads as a shopper; as a grown-up woman – someone who’s concerned about how young girls see themselves (not just because I have kids including two girls,  but I think it’s heightened my awareness). I haven’t been at the coalface of advertising for a while, so I was curious if anything much had changed agencies. When I started it was still very Mad Men, with the fellas running the show and the women largely in supporting roles.

One girl I worked with in Sydney back in the day, was a highly talented creative called Bec Brideson. These days Bec runs her own ad agency out of Melbourne – it’s called Hello I’m Venus and it’s the only agency in Australia that specialises in marketing to women with a particularly astute understanding of social media.

I asked Bec what she thought of the video and why women continue to be portrayed in advertising as either mumsy or slutty. This is what she said:

The battle of the sexes and sexism is an age old debate. And both men and women plunder the tension and conflict when looking to entertain. Or write advertising concepts. But the suitability of these cliches and stereotypes come down to nuances, subtlety and social responsibility.

Unfortunately, whilst males continue to dominate the numbers in the advertising industry (in 2012 just 3% of US creative directors were women), advertising will reflect a males personal experiences and appetites for the way in which women are portrayed. Whilst 97% of men remain the arbiters of the ads that clients buy, this will continue.

It’s a step in the right direction that Miss Representation has drawn our attention to this. Fortunately the rise of social media empowers the consumer to do something about it.

Given women are responsible for choosing 85% of household goods it’s time to let brands live or die by their bottom lines. If you don’t like what brands are saying… don’t buy them. Vote with your wallet. We have a voice. Tell them what you really think on their Facebook pages.

Women do the buying, so why insult them in advertising?

Kate Hunter is Mamamia’s contributing editor and an advertising copywriter with over 20 years experience and one Gruen Transfer appearance to her name. Kate is also the author of the Mosquito Advertising series of novels. You can buy them here.

How do you feel about the way women are portrayed in advertising?