Nikki Wicks
Sep 24, 2014

Gender clichés: Who decides what’s offensive and what’s not?

SPIKES ASIA - BrandOpus opened the forum sessions on day two with a discussion on the “complex” subject of gender clichés in advertising.

Nir Wegrzyn
Nir Wegrzyn

Please see all of our Spikes Asia 2014 coverage here

“It’s an offensive subject and people get upset when we talk about gender and clichés,” said Nir Wegrzyn, CEO of BrandOpus.

The session raised lots of questions about the use of gender clichés by brands and featured some examples of content that has often been considered to have “crossed the line” and caused offense.

“But who decides where that line is?” asked Wegrzyn. “It’s a complex issue.”

Using iconic examples of advertising, such as Diet Coke’s famous 'Diet Coke break' TV commercial (see below) and Wonderbra’s 'Hello Boys' poster campaign, Wegrzyn and co-presenter Bex Deere, senior account director at BrandOpus, shared different views on whether or not the work could be considered offensive in its use of gender clichés.

Using an example of a campaign by fashion brand Diesel, which featured sexualised images and the words 'Sex sells', ostensibly to poke fun at the concept of using sex to sell products, Wegrzyn suggested the attempt at irony made the campaign even more offensive.

Deere took a different view. “I think as soon as you add a layer of irony or humour, it becomes less offensive,” she said.

The session raised several key questions:

  • Is there an issue for brands and the gender clichés?
  • Who decides what’s offensive and what’s not?
  • When is the use of sexualised images acceptable, and when is it not?
  • Should things that are deemed offensive be banned? Wegrzyn suggested that banning ads can actually help amplify brands.

Campaign’s observation: This was a stimulating discussion that navigated a complex topic with some good, fun examples to support the message. The session perhaps raised more questions than gave answers, but it was a highly engaging forum all the same.


Iconic Diet Coke ad: Forum asked whether gender clichés are still an issue today:


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