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Laurie Matthews, Partner, Young & Rubicam/NY
February 21, 2001 4:00 - 5:00 p.m. Eastern

<laurie> Hi you guys... where do you want to start?
<Laurie> Let's start w/ ads - any good ones out there in your view, w/ respect to women's portrayal?
<lak238> One's for secret, kind of like women's power
<lak238> women are portrayed as strong, not sexual
<Laurie> I agree. For me, the best ads about women are simultaneously realistic and inspiring, or funny...
<Laurie> Well.. how do you feel about sex in ads, such as Herbal Essence / "Urge"?
<orngjuce4u> sex sells
<Laurie>Yes, but do you all think you can both sell, get people to watch, and do it intelligently re women?? or is that too serious a goal for advg?
<orngjuce4u> With all the dominant ideals of women needing to be beautiful, skinny and sexy...how do you think advertisers should appeal to women?
<Laurie> Good question. I think there should be a way to celebrate real women, and beauty in all its forms. There's a lot of research that shows girls really are affected by ads, so we need to be responsible---
<Laurie> For instance, I think Adidas and Visa (last 2 Olympics) portray women in a very + light. What about you all?
<orngjuce4u>This is true but I don't think that advertisers have grasped this idea of presenting average women
<orngjuce4u> Why would they need to if the skinny, beautiful sexy women are helping sell their products
<Laurie> Some have - Tylenol for women; Mastercard's spot showing a daughter and mom in Ireland, where the daughter "gets" where her mom "comes from"...
<orngjuce4u> stick with what works right?
<Laurie> Clearly, some do stick w/ the "old" view of skinny/beautiful. But a lot have smartened up... per a couple examples above.
<orngjuce4u> Tylenol and Mastercard are trying to appeal to a different audience then say Herbal Essence
<orngjuce4u> what about the age bracket 18-24
<Laurie> YES! Here's my ?: I'm not in Herbal Essences target - I'm too old - if any of you are in the target, do you like the ad or do you find it offensive? what would an 18 year old say?
<orngjuce4u> Maybe ridiculously appealing
<Laurie> We advertisers have a good challenge - fit the target's mindset. Entertain them. So they'll hear us and listen... AND... be responsible and realize we are affecting attitudes. It's not easy.
<orngjuce4u> How do you feel about men in advertising?
<Laurie> Men? In what regard?
<orngjuce4u> Overall stereotypes that are portrayed
<orngjuce4u> What do you think men are portrayed as?
<Laurie> Women are sensitized to care about how we are portrayed. So that's more on everyone's radar screen. When beefcake shows up - like in the old Diet Coke ad - it sometimes can be funny...
<Laurie> BUT: some beer ads that make guys look like idiots, is not "good " advg to me, but it does appeal to that target . So, you have to be fair to the advertisers' objective.
<orngjuce4u> fair?
<Laurie> What are you asking? I mean, in evaluating an ad, I try to consider who they want to speak to, and in doing so, if it is perpetuating a stereotype or not....
<orngjuce4u> Can you give me an example of an ad that you feel accurately portrays men?
<Laurie> Here's an analogy: Eminem is cool today. I find that scary, but to a kid who likes the music, I don't get it...
<Laurie> To orgj... I in truth haven't thought about it that way.... have you?
<monk> Laurie, given that playing on stereotypes is perhaps the simplest way of engaging the widest segment of a target market, do you have any thoughts on how advertisers can hope to positively impact social conventions, rather than reinforce negative or at least restrictive ones?
<monk> I suppose specifically in a concrete manner, not a nebulous 'feel-good' way.
<Laurie> Yes, that' s why I mentioned Adidas, VISA, Nike, even Mattel & Barbie. They are staking part of their brands' identities on portraying a fresher more positive role.... it takes insight to see it, then creativity & courage to do it.
<Laurie>Well, feel-good & nebulous is in a way the currency you have in a 30 second spot
<monk> OK, I can see using an established brand to good effect. What about a case where the company or product doesn't have the advantage of being a part of the popular daily culture?
<Laurie> I mention the 30 secs, because the advertisers' #1 goal is to sell their product, and that image around is a component, but advertisers are not in the business to actively create social values, in my opinion.
<monk> But advertisers affect social values, so to some extent they must accept that responsibility.
<Laurie> Their #1 job is to establish their brand - the rest is being responsible, but not necessarily their goal. Lucy of Portland shows it is theirs; other new brands/products do not.
<Monk> OK. Thanks for your time.
<Laurie> Monk raised a good point - if all advertisers were sensitive, it would be great. But some don't feel it's key to their brand's success.
<orngjuce4u> When it comes to advertising to teenage girls... do you think that average teenage girls would respond better to average girls?
<Laurie> Yes, in that research shows ads today are making them feel pressure re weight, sex, etc.
<Laurie> Orngju, what's your thought on this?
<Laurie> If anyone's interested, my thoughts for what makes for good advg re women's roles: realistic, inspiring, funny, celebrating whatever it means to be a woman, in many dimensions...
<orngjuce4u> How about good advg for men?
<Laurie> Dear O, it would be the same, but... is advg to and about men as much of an "issue"?
<orngjuce4u> isn't this a discussion on GENDER portrayals?
<orngjuce4u> or do you feel that men are accurately presented?
<orngjuce4u> How about men in women's ads?
<orngjuce4u>What do these men say about women?
<Laurie> Absolutely! All I meant was, in my experience, most people are more focused on the woman's side of the issue! As I mentioned earlier, I feel there's a lot of beer advg, for example, that is dreadfully "off" re understanding & celebrating "men"...
<moderator> question from dennis: Does your agency have any special policies about the portrayal of women or any other group? How are they enforced?
<Laurie> No formal policies per se.
<Laurie> It comes down to each advertiser. A soda brand has a wider range than a pharmaceutical company, for instance
<Laurie> To the men in the group - does any beer advg bother you? Or is it all funny?
<moderator> question from Dennis: Who determines if the lead acting role is male or female? Have you seen research that shows women respond better to men as authorities?

<Laurie> Good ?. I'm not aware of any research. Generally, we believe that it's not the gender of the role or spokesperson, as much as it is their image; personality; etc. does that fit the brand and /or the target's views.
<orngjuce4u> What do you think about men that are depicted in women's ads?
<Laurie> to ORNGJ: What about them - sorry, I don't follow....
<orngjuce4u> Don't you think that it degrades women to have men in the advg...as to say.. do this or look like this and you'll get the man?
<Laurie> In a case such as this, perhaps. It depends on the ad. But women do buy things & do things to "get the man", so it's a ? of should a man be saying it?? Is that your point?
<moderator> question from Dennis: I have research that shows women are used less than men as the lead actors for products that women purchase. Is this a misalignment?
<Laurie> It could be that " traditionally", advertisers felt a man's voice + presence = authority. But that's changing, from my own view of things over last 15 years in the business.
<orngjuce4u> In the next couple years women will gain more and more of the buying power... do you think this will force businesses to change the way they appeal to women in their advg?
<Laurie> For instance, the New York Times as well as different financial houses now use women voiceover announcers in their ads
<Laurie> Some sociologists and trend readers speak to the changing role of women as a leading force that marketers are responding to... using more women as voiceovers is one small manifestation of this. Our culture is more female-oriented in some ways. Women are changing offices; ads; a lot of places
<moderator> question from Dennis: What you are saying is true but the research shows that ads have not reflected that change. My research showed women were less than 30% of the VOs.
<Laurie> I'm referring to the qualitative changes; your #s may well be true
<moderator> Any last questions for Laurie before we wrap this up?
<orngjuce4u> what do you think is the technique most used in advertising and why?
<Laurie> what do you mean technique - humor vs sex vs X? I'm not following?
<orngjuce4u> Yes they are all techniques that are used but what do you find to be the MOST used technique?
<Laurie> It really depends on the category. Humor is right for some areas, but not for others...
<orngjuce4u> Is there a way I get get a copy of this discussion?
<Laurie> Advertisers try to have a point of view and get heard by their audience. If their target generally has a light view of the category, then humor is perfect. But it comes down to understanding your consumer's needs and attitudes of the category. That's what makes the best ad.
<moderator> If any one has any further comments you would like to share, please feel free to post in the aef.com Bulletin Boards. A complete transcript of this discussion will be posted tomorrow.
<moderator> Stay tuned for future Online discussions.
<Laurie> Bye to all - thanks!

 

 

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