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Adios irksome ads

An advertising board displays the “Tour de Sloggi” publicity poster by underwear brand Sloggi (Brussels, Belgium, 2010)

There is one ad on German TV that particularly irks me.

It peddles a weight loss formula that features a woman and her bulldog. Yes, you read right: bulldog. And frankly, the pudgy pooch is probably the ad’s only saving grace.

But why does it irk me so, you ask?

For starters, despite having enjoyed airtime for a couple of years now, there’s yet to be a male version of the ad, somewhat perpetuating the notion that weight loss is – and should be – primarily a female concern. I mean why not go the way of Snickers’ “You are not you when you’re hungry” campaign and feature both women AND men as turning into crabby, fidgety alter egos when hangry?

I mean, shouldn’t weight loss be a collective concern?

Secondly, our protagonist only ever wears a bikini, whatever the weather. Yes, the ad has winter and summer versions. The summer version has the star in a yellow two-piece running in slow motion on a beach a la Baywatch, observed by two male lifeguards. The camera then pans down to her bulldog laboriously trying to keep up with her.

The winter version has her dressed in a trench coat, pulling up to a townhouse in a sleek black car. She ascends a flight of stairs on vertiginous heels and rings the doorbell. When a man in a suit opens the door, in classic flasher motion she undoes her belt to reveal herself wearing only a black two-piece. Her male friend, eyes all aglow, can only summon a “Wow!” Meanwhile, the bulldog laboriously climbs up the stairs.

I don’t know about you, but I wonder whether there’s an underlying message here that those of us who do not consume this product might eventually meet the fate of the lumbering bulldog? Or that our worth is only dependant upon the fact that others (read: oglers) find us desirable only when we’re neatly encased in bikinis.

As someone who grew up in a warmer climate, I also wonder who in their right mind would walk around in just a trenchcoat in the height of winter, but I digress.

That’s sexist ads for you. I use to wonder how scantily-clad women reclining on a car could communicate the said car’s attributes. I still question why scantily-clad women continue to be used as props at car shows.

Hence, I’m all for the recent decision by the Berlin state government to ban sexist billboard ads in all state-owned advertising spaces, and its plan to set up a special central committee that will monitor discriminatory billboard advertising run by private agencies.

The Left party in Berlin’s Charlottenburg district issued a proposal at the end of May with a list of various ads that could be deemed “sexist, discriminatory or misogynist.”

Discriminatory ads include those that explicitly depict “physical or psychological exploitation or subjugation, especially of women by men” or when they show “women as hysterical, complicated, needy, nurturing, engaging in housework with great joy, addicted to consumerism, dependent, seductive, beautiful, etc., while men are rational, aggressive, power-obsessed, technologically gifted, strong, autonomous or active in the business world.”

Other criteria for degrading images are “sexualized and pornographic depiction of people, especially women, without any relevance to the product, and reduced to their sexual function,” as well as “bodies, especially women’s bodies (or parts) presented as objects or products that suggested availability or purchasability.”

While the current targets are billboard ads, hopefully in time there’ll be a trickle down effect to other forms of advertising too.

I especially like the inclusion of “engaging in housework with great joy” ads since personally housework really isn’t my cup of tea. There’s a reason why it’s otherwise known as “chores”, which women often end up doing, (no) thanks to social conditioning from several sources, including ads.

And frankly, ads that purport to make women appear “in control”, like showing grown, clueless men how to use household products, are hogwash. Because we’re still dealing with skills that society expects us to excel in.

Why not instead create ads of mums teaching sons how to cook a soup or clean a toilet? Or fathers showing daughters how to work a drill or a lawnmower? If ads get subliminal messages across, then wouldn’t this be a good start?

No gender delineations in household chores. Now that’s an ad campaign I’d happily support.


Author: Brenda Haas

Editor: Anne Thomas




Body trends to blow your mind

Summer is finally upon us in the northern hemisphere. With rising temperatures, clothes are getting scantier, regular bodies are being exposed to the critical eyes of the tabloid press and those who prey on our insecurities. This in turn has led to the next head-scratching body trend. (From July 10, 2017)

Confident or complacent?

When I first moved from Asia to Europe – specifically to Germany – I was a European size 36. Then I discovered German bread – specifically “brötchen” – and they proved to be my undoing. (From April 20, 2017)

Are we our own worst enemy? You judge

“Feminism is about giving women choice. Feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women with. It’s about freedom, it’s about liberation, it’s about equality. I really don’t know what my tits have to do with it. It’s very confusing.” (From March 8, 2017)



18.07.2017 | 8:23