Last Summer, 2017, UN Women in partnership with Unilever and industry heavy weights such as Facebook, Google and Mars set up a new global Alliance set to banish stereotypical portrayals of gender in advertising and all brand led content.
This International Women’s Day we spoke with Thomas Adams (a man!! shock horror! ;)) Cherryduck’s go to casting Director about his experiences over the last year and how he sees this shift is impacting the industry.
How (if at all) have you felt the impact of this initiative when it comes to your casting business?
These initiatives tend to take time to percolate and catch on in the wider industry, and can also be pretty difficult to measure beyond anecdotally, even for the brands involved. But I do think, particularly with the current movement emerging post Trump and Weinstein there will be a more drastic shift in brand’s portrayal of gender. It’s clear now, consumers don’t want to see hackneyed, tired portrayals of women or men in ads in order to be sold products. Brands will have to wise up in order to continue to connect with a modern audience, but unsteryotyping still needs time to really bleed into mainstream broadcast advertising.
How do you think brands can and should embrace ‘Unstereotyping’?
Brands need to be open minded in terms of the creative treatments they are presented by their agencies. Agency treatments are often at the forefront of challenging stereotypes but the client must be brave and embrace these. I recently worked on a brief where the creatives suggested a same sex couple as the head of a family enjoying a traditional seasonal meal, the client liked the idea originally but got cold feet and pulled out.
If brands aren’t ready to be break the narrative stereotypes, they must at least look to work harder to represent a diverse audience which seems to be something brands are getting better at.
What brands have embraced ‘Unstereotyping’ well?
Sports brands are usually ahead of the curve on this. For example the #thisgirlcan campaign by Sports England is a powerful message that is mirrored by brands such as Nike and Adidas portraying women fighting, sweating, running. Lynx deodorant has embraced a change in direction after facing criticism for using scantily clad women in their adverts for years. Banks have also shown they are moving with the times, challenging stereotypes in order to truly represent their diverse customer base with same sex couples and multicultural families.
Which brands have not embraced it or done so badly?
I wouldn’t want to pick out particular brands but there are certainly areas of business lagging behind. Gambling advertising seems to still adhere to typical gender stereotypes, blokes betting on sport, women playing bingo. Cruise ads are always a Middle Aged white couple. But these are industries that feel they know exactly who their audience is and are reluctant to change anything too quickly or take unnecessary risks in advertising.
This particular initiative focuses on banning gender stereotypes, but there are also many initiatives pushing for more diversity on screen, what changes have you seen in the industry that reflect this.
I have seen a shift in the Industry where ‘real people’ are what the client is after, not models or actors but real consumers with thoughts and opinions on the brand (the latter is more important in some than others). But I think this in itself has encouraged unstereotyping and more diversity, because you’re not approaching the same group of actors and models. Briefs tend to be more fluid — about the personality or person and not gender and race. I love these briefs, although they do present a new set of challenges!
The freedom of digital formatting and less heavyweight budget commitments make online platforms a real incubator for disruptive content where brands can experiment and take themselves outside their comfort zones. Although this already happens to a certain degree, I think it’s only a matter of time before this sort of content where unstereotyping is prevalent, grows beyond online platforms and becomes part of mainstream broadcast advertising.
Tom’s brilliant casting work can be seen on his site, including his work with Sainsbury’s, Littlewood’s and Kellogg’s.