One great lesson

closeup GSD&M Addy Award Program ad

If I don’t laugh, does that make me a prude?

Call me an optimist, but thanks to The 3% Conference and The Representation Project,  I thought agencies and brands were finally  getting the message that you should (at a minimum) try not to insult or ignore women in your ads or your workplace.  And then I saw this ad. Let’s take another look at it. (Don’t worry if you don’t understand it, a lot of women didn’t and I’ll explain in a second .)

closeup GSD&M Addy Award Program ad

In case you are not currently an adolescent boy, the visuals in the coupon ad are shorthand for male masturbation.

This is an ad by GSD&M that ran in the local ADDY Awards show and is meant to make fun of how self-involved ad people are. Which is fine. We love laughing at ourselves. But this joke only includes men.

This little ad speaks volumes about the male-dominated culture that still reigns within creative departments practically everywhere. It assumes boy humor is the only humor that matters. And that women in the creative department will laugh unless 1) they’re prudes or 2)  they don’t have a sense of humor or  3)  they’re too sensitive or 4) they’re just bad creatives.

It rarely occurs to a male CD or ECD to wonder if the puerile joke he thinks is so funny will be at all entertaining to women. And when he does wonder, he simply asks his wife.

GSD&M does some fantastic work. They have been a sponsor of The 3% Conference and this past October, they even sent an executive from their Diversity team to the conference in SF. On their homepage they describe themselves as really nice people who work with “companies who stand for something and companies that want to transcend their categories and be a positive force in people’s lives.”

It’s time for GSD&M to walk their talk. And that means raising their standards of what a good, funny ad is. That means judging creative beyond the male default setting (which can be tough since the agency only has ONE female Creative Director). That means asking, “Is it as good for you as it is for me?” Even when, or especially when, that ad is intended solely for the ad industry itself. It means rising above the crowd when they’re playing in the tired, overused gutter of stereotypes and locker room humor and showing lesser agencies how it’s done.

It means recognizing that there are women in your creative department and they’d like to be in on the joke, too. (Many women were more bored than offended by the ad. )

Speaking of, I asked some women what they thought of the ad. These were my questions:

Is this a clever ad?
Does it speak to both men and women in the industry?
Does it imply that only men will be winning the ADDY Awards?
Is it offensive to you? Is it offensive to most women?
Is this creative work something an agency should be proud to submit as an example of their prowess?
If you were a young woman considering a career in advertising, would this ad suggest that this industry will value you?

Here’s a smattering of the responses that are indicative of the whole, but I’d like to know what you think.

Q: Does this ad imply that only men will be winning the ADDY Awards?
 A: I guess it does – unless the women up for ADDY awards are hermaphrodites.
Q: Is it offensive to you? Is it offensive to most women?  
A: Offensive to me as a woman? No.  Humor is highly personal so I can’t speak for most women.  Plus I have a mouth like a sailor.  As a creative woman, I would’ve been offended that the vulgar joke EXCLUDED me.

A: I have a good sense of humor and a little of inuendo is funny, but I think this crosses a lot of lines, professionally and gender-ly. I’ve long thought the Addys were getting out of control in this way and just quit even paying attention to them. Never went back to Ad Fed either. Think I voiced my opinion on this the year they had an S&M theme for the ceremony. Shaking my head…

A: Yes, this is offensive to me..It’s offensive to women because it:
1. Leaves us out of the joke
2. Marginalizes
3. Makes it “uncool” to be offended by masturbation
4. Trivializes the power of advertising.
Q: Is this creative work something an agency should be proud to submit as an example of their prowess?
A: No.  It’s weak creative, frankly.
A: I’d fire whoever approved this.
A: This is clever if you have an IQ of 85!
It really spoke to my 18 year old son and to a 56 year old fireman. They both said that only idiots use tissue.
A: Okay, this ad makes ZERO sense to me. I don’t get it at all
A: I didn’t get it….  In fact, I found it so perplexing, I asked my husband to look at it. Oddly enough, he got it right away….!
Q: If you were a young woman considering a career in advertising, would this ad suggest that this industry will value you?
A: How can you say you value something you routinely exclude or ignore?  Unless you need to market tampons….
A: It would tell me that despite this being 2014, despite the fact that more women enter college than men, despite the fact that women are now starting more businesses than men, despite the fact that well over 85% of purchasing decisions are made by women, that if you want to be part of this industry, you have to join the fraternity of dunces, pretend to be a pubescent, frustrated adolescent boy who’s highest priority is not to leave the world a better place, but to instead focus on his pee pee.

The ad above is an idea any male creative could have over one beer. Probably the first thing they scribbled down. I don’t begrudge them working fast. I’m challenging them to think beyond boy humor, include women and strive for something that’s more universal and intelligent.  Think beyond your own narrow ideas of taste.

And for all you female CDs (all one or two of you) please have the courage to send guys back to the drawing board. You’re our best hope for keeping ads like these in the circular file where they belong.

GSD&M Addy Awards Program Ad

If you don’t have anything nice to say, post a review instead.

Marketing to women can be a little tricky when it comes to getting feedback on your product or service. My last post included video interviews with women about bad haircuts and brand loyalty. The quick message for those who are marketing to women:  just because a female customer doesn’t complain, doesn’t mean she’s happy with you. Chances are that if she’s not satisfied, you’ll be the last to know. Her friends and any YELP readers will be the first to hear about it.

So, what’s a brand to do?

That was certainly an issue for the COO of a successful flooring company I spoke with recently. It is company policy for all of her installers to ask the customer (and the customer is usually a woman) if they are happy with how the floor looks and the way the job was completed. The woman usually says yes and even signs a statement saying she’s satisfied.  So far, so good. The problem raises its ugly head only days later when the manager gets an unhappy call from the woman’s husband. Turns out women are typically so averse to confrontation that they wait until their husband is available to voice concerns. In the meantime, they’ll politely smile and say thank you.

Deal with it by getting smart.

1) Take a deep breath and remember that unhappy customers can become your biggest fans and most vocal evangelists if you respond quickly and work earnestly to fix the problem. Smart brands will tell you that responding appropriately can earn you more good press and word-of-mouth than traditional advertising ever could. This is more true than ever in an economy that makes us think hard about forking over our hard-earned money.

Turn an unsatisfied customer into a very happy one and guess what happens. She’s got a great story that will be told again and again and again. And guess who’s the hero? You are. The word of mouth that results is the stuff branding director’s dreams are made of.

2) Find another way to solicit honest feedback. Face -to-face is uncomfortable for most people and is particularly tough for women who are literally hard-wired as gatherers to keep the village working together. So make it easy for people to give their reviews anonymously (if they choose) and on their own schedule.  Allow for ratings and reviews on your site.  For large companies, a service like BazaarVoice is the gold standard for monitoring customer reviews online. If your pockets aren’t deep enough to hire those guys, get creative. Send an email after the purchase asking for their input. Make sure to keep it SHORT. Link to an online survey that asks 5 questions or fewer. Let it be an OPTION for the customer to give their name or contact info. Allow a field for them to write a more complete comment if they choose.

3) Ask for opinions in YOUR voice. Don’t just send a standardized “your feedback is valuable to us” missive with an equally canned survey. Let your brand personality and EARNEST desire to do a better job ooze from every detail. Consider that even your email asking for their feedback is a form of marketing on your part. Work it.

4) Act on what you learn.

4) Act on what you learn.

4) Act on what you learn. Yes, the repeat was intentional.

This is the step that separates the success stories from the Chapter 11s. Do not hide from the bad reviews. Bad reviews are a roadmap for getting better. As Chris Brogan pointed out in his presentation at GR2L last week, the tools for listening to consumers are there. We’re just not acting on them. Chris reminds us to use OODA: Observe, Orient, Direct, Act.  It’s the Directing and Acting where most companies drop the ball.

The beautiful thing about having women as your customers is that they will tell you exactly what you need to do to succeed. You just have to ask them the right way and listen with both ears and your heart.

Different Strokes: How to have fun at 30,000 feet

Like many women my age, I am going through a “phase.” The women I know who no longer have kids at home are in full-blown re-invention mode, but I’m not quite so free. I’m simply trying to get out of my comfort zone and not bore myself to tears on a regular basis. Granted, this is hard to do while running a business and shuttling two kids around, but hey, a girl’s gotta try. So when a friend invited me to a discussion about “creativity and sexual energy,” I checked the location, saw there was food and wine involved and said yes.

Upon inquiring further about the coming evening (no pun intended) I was told it was about sex transmutation. This didn’t really clear things up for me. From what I can gather, it has something to do with tapping into an energy that’s always ‘out there’ and connecting to it in a more fun-loving way than you usually do. According to my friend, she has actually had an orgasm during a flight from D.C. to Atlanta. I’ve done that trip and didn’t find it all that exciting, but she says she was just sitting there and realized, “Oh my God, I’m about to have an orgasm.” And she did.

This piqued my curiosity. You have to appreciate someone who can join the Mile High Club. Flying solo. From the comfort of her own seat.

But when the time comes to either show up at the meeting or not, I’m torn between breaking out of my rut or getting to bed on time. Turns out that bordeom can be a hard habit to break. But I do go and there we all are, 30 women with wine glasses in hand, ready to take in whatever’s about to be dished out from this well respected PhD and business coach.

The thing is, we’re GAME. Marketers take note (I’m sure many of you already have.) Women of a certain age with money and energy and a desire to live a better life are ready to openly consider new ways of living, eating, dressing and, yes, traveling. If you’ve got a SINCERE and REPUTABLE product or service to help us achieve our goals, we’ll at least give you the time of day.

And if you can do all that AND make air travel more fun, you’ve got yourself a winner.

(A version of this post appeared on