Advertising Week ad stirs tempest in a C cup

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Advertising Week, an organization that aims to improve the image of the advertising business, has promoted itself with an ad deemed so "sexist," "moronic" and "tired," that many felt it actually tarnished the industry's reputation.

The ad, which was created pro bono by DDB New York to get people to attend the event, and appeared in the July 18 issue of Advertising Age, featured a tightly cropped shot of a woman's chest in a black bustier. Positioned directly beneath the woman's bust are the words: "Advertising: We All Do It."

That line and image have incensed a number of women across the industry who found it "shocking" and "appalling." Liz Schroeder, executive director at Advertising Women of New York-an organization that supports the Advertising Week event-said she thought it would be a great contender for the organization's own "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Awards," which shame advertisers who portray women in a sexist way.

"What does it tell you about Advertising Week?" asked Ms. Schroeder. "Is the event a strip show? ... Apart from the fact it is degrading and sexist, it totally misses the point of the show."

Jean Kilbourne, a filmmaker and author who focuses on how women are portrayed in advertising, said: "How unbelievable that people in the vanguard of advertising would do that. It's unbelievably cliche. It's moronic and insulting."

"This sexism isn't new, but shouldn't national advertising conferences be celebrating creativity, rather than tired boob jokes?" said Jennifer L. Pozner, director, Women In Media & News.

Matt Scheckner, executive director, defended the ad, saying: "The campaign overall achieves our goal. We are happy."

NO BIG DEAL

But he was quick to direct questions about the choice of creative to the ad agency, Omnicom Group's DDB, New York. DDB, in declining to comment, referred calls back to "the client," Mr. Scheckner.

The American Association of Advertising Agencies President-CEO O. Burtch Drake-who was on a panel responsible for selecting the ad, along with Mr. Scheckner, and two co-chairs of the event, Euro RSCG CEO Ron Berger and DDB Worldwide President-CEO Ken Kaess-was happy to answer questions, however. The ad, he explained, is directed at a very sophisticated audience that is likely to have a different take than the general populace. "DDB felt this was an appropriate ad. All advertising is subjective. We hired one of the greatest ad agencies in the world. I don't think it's that big a deal."

Other executions include one showing off qualifications of a male doctor in his office, another shows a man carry a "No.1 Dad" cup.

The goal of the campaign is to get people to save the date and visit the Web site for Advertising Week, gearing up for its second festival in New York City this September. The ad was produced pro bono by DDB, which also happened to be a sponsor of the most recent "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Awards."

Women weren't the only ones who thought the ad inappropriate. One male ad executive, who did not wish to be named, said: "This is exactly the kind of stuff the ad industry should be trying to get away from. The old guys at the golf club."

Last year's ad campaign featured advertising icons such as the Jolly Green Giant and Mr. Clean.

At least one woman didn't see anything wrong with the ad, however. Cindy Gallop, outgoing global chief marketing officer at Bartle Bogle Hegarty, and a director of Advertising Week, said: "I see the campaign as funny and entertaining. Advertising is something we all do without thinking. The fact is a woman opening an extra button on her blouse for a date is a very regular occurrence." She added there wasn't a lot of thought given to the overall gender focus of the campaign.

When asked if the ad will be appearing again, Mr. Drake said: "Given the controversy, probably not. We're not looking to offend anyone. But if there's any blame, place it squarely with me."

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