Sexist ads, mobilization and social media: a preemptive pressure like a WOM(an)IZER

by Laurent François

Pat had a tricky thought on her blog: she broadcast some ads that won’t probably be tolerated today, because too sexist.

Recently, Ryanair suffered from a bad buzz because of its last campaign:

Entitled ‘The Girls of Ryanair’, the airline’s new 2009 calendar features liberally oiled and scantily clad female cabin crew. “I can’t see what the problem is, there are a huge number of similar calendars on the market and it’s raising money for charity. I don’t think it’s any different to a calendar showing firemen or rugby players.” McNamara continues: “I’m sure Birgitta will hate it – she probably has pictures of pussy cats and dogs running through fields up on her walls. However, it would be pretty difficult to shift that sort of calendar on our flights.” “We’re just giving people what they want”. Also on their list of high profile recipients is the ERK, the Swedish advertising industry body which focuses on regulating sexist advertising. “I haven’t actually received the calendar yet, but I can make a guess at what it will look like,” explains ERK secretary Tobias Eltell. “It’s very kind of him to send a copy, but I can’t really see why he has done so as it doesn’t change the ERK’s criticisms of Ryanair’s advertising policies.”

The thing is that because conversations are now totally horizontal, you can mobilize an affinity community against a brand, whereas its communication was just a humoristic one.

Moreover for this 2009 edition, the calendar has a charity purpose:

“The entire proceeds from the sale of the 2009 edition will go to the Dublin Simon Community, a charity providing vital services for the homeless in Ireland’s capital.”

I don’t wanna be Ryanair advocate, but it seems like when you use a thematic, like “feminism”, and that you want to achieve a goal (leveraging awareness about your association), some people are ready to mix a true breach of women rights and any anecdotic goodies to get a little buzz.

It’ll certainly work in the short-term, but I bet that it won’t work in the long-term, because the ground is too weak to be sustainable.

And that there is a true difference between what Pat underlines, which is a true cultural problem, and Ryanair sexy-flexy calendar that does not contain a huge political meaning, and lacks, so to say, WOM(an)IZER.

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