Female-targeted Marketing

Saint Barbie by Mark Ryden

Alternate title: Special K Can Suck It.

Oh hey, presumably intelligent humans who dislike being manipulated and pandered to. I watched Amy and Tina OWN the Golden Globes last night, and prior to tuning in, I mentally prepared myself for what would be (and very much was) a hugely girl-centric evening. Ripping on George Clooney's man-child tendencies, repeatedly cutting to my homegirl (um, and sorority sister), Julia Louis-Dreyfus chowing down processed meats and refusing to schmooze with Reese Witherspoon... all this girlpower following the recent Meryl/Emma sister act -- coupled with Annie Hall, herself, accepting a lifetime achievement award on behalf of Woody Allen with what may have been the most nonsensical speech to ever be uttered by a woman wearing a tuxedo -- made for a ladies' night, indeed.

To be clear, I am down with all of the above. What are boys, even? What I am less down with is subtle brainwashing via the well-paid marketing teams of supposedly feminist corporations. Look: I'm in marketing. I love marketing. But here is everything I find deplorable about this particular brand of marketing:

Their business model depends on our thinking we're fat. Special K tells you that you're more than a number, employing montages of timid feet gaining courage on friendly looking scales; relatable (re: not quite super model-sized) actresses dancing around their kitchens and coquettishly spoon-warring with their foxy faux-husbands; racks of designer jeans sized radiant to glowing instead of 00 to 12.

So listen: Special K can't sell you their product because it tastes like balsa wood and it's full of chemicals, preservatives and common inflammatories. Furthermore, special K contains no magical waist-widdling properties... eat some kale, G. Thereby, Special K has to sell you something else: a support system. A society of boss-ass bitches who seem joyful in their own skin... but, like, they're only joyful because they lost 10 pounds eating bowlfuls of wheat gluten, sugar, ascorbic acid and calcium caseinate? They couldn't attain that joy by, say, learning Japanese? Joining a roller derby league? Falling in love? Any discerning lady who's not entirely ruled by her immediate emotional responses (let's be real... that rules some of us out) knows that this campaign is bullsh*t. But that's where Special K gets you: they're not just playing on your emotions; they're cashing in on your insecurities.

There's a difference between ad campaigns like Special K's and male-targeted campaigns. Certainly, ads wherein a hot chick eats Doritos while lounging on the hood of a bitchin' Camaro; a James Bond lookalike tries to sell you gin, Shaquille O'neal implores you to buy Gold Bond foot powder... those perpetuate gender stereotypes , too. No wonder there are so many man haters among us, when men are painted as orange-"cheese" dusted nymphos with smelly feet. But that's another point for another day. The difference I was referring to, Friends, is shame. There is so much (too much!) shame surrounding womens' bodies. We talk about it around here all the time. And Special K knows that 24 million people in the U.S. suffer from eating disorders. Special K knows that you're embarrassed about your holiday weight or your baby weight or the weight you've carried around since high school. Special K knows that you want to hear that you are more than a number... but meanwhile, you should probably lose some poundage by regularly consuming Chocolate Delight. I mean... what?

What I want to know is... what do you all think about the Heroic Women Bing ad? I want to love it. I want to imagine little girls looking up at their moms with eyes full of hope, asking "Who is Margaret Thatcher, Mommy?" or "I want to be like Malala Yosafzai when I'm 16!" So why did I suffer a whole-body flinch when it aired? Is it because Bing -- who will argue that, as a search engine, they have as much reason as anyone to randomly call out a bunch of lady-ballers for being awesome -- managed to attach their name to the inspiring accomplishments of these women? Is it because true equality would entail celebrating the successes of both genders?

Bully for Bing, I guess, and bully for advertisers that they finally realized that ladies make up more than half of the world's population and about 85% of consumersBut you all know how I feel about being talked down to

That's all for now. I'd love to hear all of your thoughts on this, so feed me comments and emails! And if you all could boycott Special K the same way we boycotted Robin Thicke, that'd be swell.


Rose TruesdaleComment