Channel 4’s Diversity in Advertising Award was set up to encourage the UK advertising industry to expand diversity inclusion, with 2018 focusing on the portrayal of women in advertising. The 2018 winner, The Royal Air Force, launched their campaign ‘No Room For Cliches’ on Friday night, hitting all the right notes (and for more than one reason).
Reason 1: Women are typically more likely to be stereotyped in adverts.
Channel 4 chooses a topic each year for the Diversity in Advertising Awards, so 2018 became the Year of Women in Advertising after an accumulation of several things: the #MeToo movement, the centenary of women’s right to vote, the focus on gender pay gaps and a rather shocking bit of research. The study, conducted by Channel 4, looked at the 1000 most watched adverts over a 4-week period. Of the adverts which portrayed women in a defined role, 40% of the adverts showed women in stereotypical ‘home-maker’ or ‘housewife’ roles. All of this is perfectly summed up by Channel 4’s Matt Salmon:
“There are campaigns already on our screens which represent women in a positive and appropriate manner, but sadly there just aren’t enough of them.”
Reason 2: The Armed Forces have finally allowed women to operate in ALL combat roles.
In 2019, the British Armed Forces are allowing all new female applicants to serve in all combat roles, including the infantry, SAS and SBS. Women who are already serving in the Armed Forces have been allowed to transfer into any combat role as of the end of 2018. All entry requirements will be the same for all genders. There won’t be a ‘softening’ of the entry tests. While the ‘ban’ on women serving in front-line combat roles was initially lifted in 2016, it has taken three years for all doors to be opened to women in the Armed Forces. It’s good progression but far behind several other nations. Germany, Sweden, Australia and even the US have allowed women to serve in all combat roles as far back as 2002. Norway even has an all-female special operations force called Jegertorppen, which was specifically set up after the realisation that valuable information was being missed because of cultural differences in some countries where local women are not allowed to interact with male soldiers.
Reason 3: The RAF have got the balance just right.
“Fine lines and wrinkles? I want to combat the signs of ageing.”
“Strong healthy hair: what’s my secret?”
“With my busy life, I don’t have time to slow down.”
“I can’t believe we turned up wearing the same thing!”
“I want a lipgloss that can stay on whatever life throws at me.”
“All day protection, now with wings, so I can handle anything.”
We’ve all heard these cliches and they’re all still widely used in advertising today. But use them in serious situations where the cliche is obviously never going to cross your mind and it makes for quite a humorous advert. The juxtaposition in the adverts manages to poke fun at the condescending cliches in just the right way. It’s humorous without trivialising the world-wide issues behind them: the idea that women’s value is based on how they look and personal grooming is top of women’s priority list, the idea that women having busy lives is something that needs to be rectified by ‘slowing down,’ or the idea that if your sanitary pad doesn’t have wings you will disintegrate into a hysterical mess and cease to be able to handle daily life. The ads highlight the ridiculousness of the cliches that continue to be used to stereotype women on a daily basis to the detriment of society as a whole.
The RAF’s latest campaign is far from the first advertising campaign to tackle these issues, but it’s certainly up there with some of the best. It tackles the stereotyping issue, promotes long-awaited equal opportunities for women in the Armed Forces and does it with the perfect balance of humour and seriousness. We’re looking forward to seeing more adverts like this across all types of media – something that we know all about at Elastic. If you would like to find out more about our marketing offering, whether it’s a promotional flyer or a multifaceted digital campaign, get in touch.