Female-focused advertising must evolve & fast!
A recent piece by Laura Slattery in the Irish Times brought to mind an ill-fated advertising campaign run by Australian company Premier Estates Wine in 2015.
Though Laura’s article was about big brands paying mere lip service to women while continuing to reinforce stereotypes in the age of #MeToo, the Premier Estates Wine kerfuffle firmly put the lever of progress into reverse and accelerated straight into the realm of outright sexism and boorishness.
The advert shows a well-dressed and confident young woman extol the virtues of the company’s Shiraz in a relatively straightforward wine commercial: “Australia practically jumps out of the glass” she coos.
However, it is the next part that set the internet alight. Placing the v-shaped glass of wine conspicuously on a table in front of her at hip-height, she says knowingly, “In fact, some say you can almost taste the bush”, and coyly cases a look downwards.
The innuendo is left to linger for a moment before she picks up the glass again and turns away. And as though any reinforcement was necessary, a soft focus shot of the woman’s behind as she walks back to her friends forms the backdrop of the voiceover and bottle shot at the finale.
The advert was banned almost instantly, with the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority stating that it “‘served to reduce the woman to merely a sexual object’ and that the reference to oral sex would be clearly understood, which was in breach of the advertising code.”
Even Wine Australia – the powerful lobbying and interest group that represents Australia’s entire wine industry – backed the ban, saying that it was ‘sexist and degrading towards women’.
If that wasn’t enough, a concurrent Twitter competition by Premier Estates Wine encouraged people to Tweet the line “I want to #TasteTheBush” in an attempt to win a case of wine, complete with a cropped image of the woman that reduced her to just her breasts, hips, and of course that glass.
Not very ‘woke’, it has to be said.
The reaction was as expected: that is, mostly condemnation, with a mix of laddish confusion (“it’s the PC Brigade!” etc.) and marketing cynics wishing they’d done the same (“no such thing as bad publicity” etc.). And as for the reaction from Premier Estates Wine themselves?
In one report they said the ad “was intended to be playful and tongue-in-cheek”, while another – perhaps written later as the PR person became more exhausted and irritable by the continued inquisition – said that “it captures the brand’s unique British humour and banter.”
Aha, “banter”. If only people – women in particular – could just ‘get’ the company’s style of banter then there wouldn’t be such a fuss, would there?
In today’s #MeToo world, it is too easy to look back with a mix of humour and disgust at the sexist and patronising ads of the early and mid-century, where a woman’s place was advertised as firmly in the home and at the behest of her husband.
But the Premier Estates Wine advert was only three years ago – hardly a different era. I would hope that companies – and their advertising agencies – would today have more sense, or at least an increased awareness of the sexual inequality, objectification, and stereotyping that still pervades society and popular media.
But having read Laura Slattery’s piece, I can’t say that I’m too sure…?