By Tom Flynn
Talking to Women
For a lot of young men talking to women can be nerve wracking at the best of times. But let me tell you, advertising to women is objectively difficult for some young men.
How do two dudes, like Patxi and I (and we are very much two oversized 12-year-old boys), communicate a message to women of any age, ilk or inclination in way that doesn’t come across as offensively inauthentic? Like, could we tell ladies, this is an excellent product for ladies, without sounding sexist or patronising or lame? (I recently discovered I can be very patronising, and so am afraid of being patronising because I don’t intend to be so horribly patronising. I’m terribly sorry.)
Surely, it’s really easy. Women are people. Just speak to them as you would any other person and things should be fine. That’s not very complicated at all is it? To suggest anything else is kind of misogynistic.
I mean that’s what I’ve always believed, or least it’s what I believe until I’m attracted to a particular woman. In that case my brains melt out my ears and I manage to make an unholy show of how ineffably uncool I am, but my social ineptitude is of little relevance here.
The problem is ad people seem so vehement about knowing their audience that their obsession with a full picture leads to an imaginary target consumer who is just riddled with inaccuracies. They take what they know, add some wishful thinking and then fill in the gaps with stereotypes and clichés.
Like some of the shit I have read in terms of strategy aimed at women is straight up offensive. But that being said there are obvious differences in the physiologies, behaviours and preferences of men and women. The classic example of the Marlboro box being too masculine is outdated to say the least, but it’s evidence of marketing to women the wrong way.
Anyway, when Patxi and I were told we weren’t really speaking to women in our book, we felt it was a fair criticism, and tried to get on fixing it. We thought we’d choose Lush (yes we know they don’t advertise), it felt like an overtly feminine brand. Even as I write that I wonder if it’s sexist.
We went to a store in Victoria to do some research. It turns out we actually fucking love Lush. Shower jelly is the greatest thing ever invented. We’re doing a campaign now for them, which we quite love, but it’s certainly not classically feminine if there is such a thing. It’s just something we like; and we just have to hope that women will like it too.
And that’s the crux of the problem, will we ever be able to do work that speaks uniquely to women? I don’t think we will, because we don’t understand what it’s really like to be a woman. But what we can do is speak as best we can to people, because we at least know what it’s like to be human.