The End of Objectification in Ads? Sounds Great

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Photo: Carl's Jr.

Earlier this month, advertising agency Badger & Winters anonymously uploaded a video that asserted, “We are #WomenNotObjects.” In the clip, several women hold up ads from companies like Balmain, Carl’s Jr., Tom Ford, and American Apparel while they explain that, as women, they refuse to be objectified any longer. Women, after all, are self-evidently not objects. So why do we objectify them? Badger & Winters co-founder Madonna Badger explained that the agency initially uploaded the video anonymously because they wanted to see “what the reaction was about it, outside of the realm of the industry.”

Since the video took off, with commentary and criticism living under the hashtag #WomenNotObjects, Badger has said that her agency was behind it. “Now we’re coming forward saying it was us, we were the ones who posted it,” she told Women’s Wear Daily, “because we are taking a stand today that we will never objectify a woman again in any of the advertising, content, posts — any form of communication that we do for any of our clients.” That’s nothing to scoff at, but will Badger & Winters’s decision ripple across other agencies?

Seems unlikely. The platitude “sex sells” will never die, and after Ad Age published its 2016 Agency A-List with one woman in a room of nine men (this year! as in only a few days ago!), is there really any incentive to start favoring women’s wants in advertising? As WWD noted, “75 percent of all purchasing decisions” are made by women, but “only 11 percent of advertising creatives are women.” This means that the overwhelming majority of decisions being made in advertising are by men and for men. But at least we’re having this conversation — again.

For the time being, let’s accept a middle ground of more aggressively objectifying men the way that we objectify women. That sounds fun.