Advertising is the hardest form of storytelling. For television, in just 30 seconds, there needs to be a beginning, middle and end, all while making the brand the hero of the story. This is why advertising creatives have a long history of taking the easy way out, by relying on gender bias and sex to sell their products (and yes, I realize the irony of this statement, since I wrote a book with sex in the title, but that is different, you will either have to read it or just trust me.)
There is a cultural awakening right now, with storytelling being a very clear reflection of societal sentiment. No longer do we need to count on paid media to distribute our message, thanks to social media proliferation and the power of communities who can take anyone’s message and add their personal spin to it to keep emotions fired high.
This was never more apparent to me until this most recent Superbowl. Notorious for its commercials – why I personally watch the game – the spots aired during the event this year spoke more loudly than ever, declaring in a screaming whisper what I was so, so happy to hear: “It’s time to make a change for humanity.”
No more did we see the spank material of Paris Hilton devouring a Carl’s Jr. burger clad in a monokini, getting soaked with water as she washed a black sports car.
BRA-VAH to Go Daddy, who opted to air a clever spot told from the point of view of a genderless Internet, setting itself up as the hero that delivers all the wonderful things we love the Internet for – viral challenges, animals, and memes – instead of its spots from years past of… wait for it… bikini clad ladies.
Even Mr. Clean offered up a plot twist, trying to flip traditional gender roles by turning the iconic mascot into a 50 shades of grime Mr. Grey (which in my opinion, is still off the mark a bit. If cleaning was really sexy and foreplayish, why don’t they sell rubber gloves and toilet cleaner in the lingerie aisle?!).
I counted at least four spots that were obvious middle fingers to the Trump administration:
- Coke, who aired a spot that actually ran two years ago I learned (thank you Jeff Gomez!) and returned this year overwhelmingly positive remarks (even from the red states), which was NOT the case just 24 months ago.
- Google, who pulled together a last minute spot that was so simple, but powerful in support of home, family, love and diversity in America.
- Even Anheuser Busch aired a poignant, if not completely accurate, re-enactment of one of its founders emigrating to America, specifically to brew what he thought would be delicious beer. This was a surprise shift for them, as it risked alienating its core audience, most of whom are Americans who skew blue collar living in red states. This sparked a #BoycottBudweiser hashtag on Twitter, which fizzled out due to a misspelled hashtag , which… um… did not help its cause.
- And lastly, a company called Lumber 86, or 69 Wood, sorry, 84 Lumber. Where the hell did these guys come from? I doubt most of the general public had heard of this company before the Superbowl, but they proved that with heart, a little controversy (Fox deemed the spot too political and forced the company to change the ending, instead directing viewers to their website to see the end of the short cinematic film about Mexican immigration to the United States), and a classic, non-communication snafu between Marketing and IT to prepare the website for the surge in bandwidth (yes, it crashed), they managed to capture an impressive 2.8% Share of Voice, beating out Skittles.
Shifts are happening for sexism and equality. It’s reflected in our art, our stories, and the way we are telling them.
And I am more than ready to be a part of it. #TWSS
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