Advertising’s Lists Of Women To Bump Uglies With


Or, as we might put it, the evidence we need of the gross sexism of the advertising industry. For that’s an entirely reasonable reading of that list, placed in order, of who the departing advertising executive would prefer to bump uglies with. And I can believe that gross sexism – 30 years back I did some work in the industry as a supplier and it was pointed out that it wasn’t what or even who you know but who you shag that mattered. Something I might have been up for if it hadn’t been that the offer came from a bloke I didn’t find attractive at all.

However, it’s entirely possible to take the wrong result from this:

So I know exactly the warped womb that birthed the ‘joke’ email sent out by advertising executive Paul Martin on International Women’s Day last week, in which he sent out a ranking of his ‘top five’ female colleagues – based on their looks, natch – to his entire company as a parting gift.

It is perfectly possible, I suppose, that the environment in which Paul had been marinating meant that, on the moment of pressing send on the list of colleagues he’d like to ‘f***’ and who he would ‘use as bait to trap a wild animal who I’d rather f***’, he truly thought himself hilarious.

What’s tragic is that I don’t believe that Paul realised that this email had overstepped the line from banter to requiring a public apology (surely he could make amends on Twitter, at least?). This reflects horribly on Paul, but even worse on the industry itself.

I’m perfectly willing to agree that the industry is like that. But it’s the follow on which isn’t true:

And this is the final shame, that the end result is that too many of the ads themselves are a reflection of the distorted world of ad agencies, where women are sexual objects, men are the ones with the power and punchlines, and women over child-rearing age are best unseen. It’s a mindset as tired as the ads these chauvinists produce.

For that’s not the world those ads portray, is it? Men are, generally enough, bumbling idiots who need women to pull them out of the mire of their own creation. The reason for this should be obvious even if it isn’t even to some who work in the industry. Women spend rather more of the nation’s money than men do. The usual rule of thumb is that women determine 70% of consumer spending. Thus ads are aimed at persuading women. Not because nor in spite of any chauvinism but because capitalism, lust for lucre and cold hard cash.

In fact, the whole story is a delight as an example of the merits of these markets and capitalism. Let us accede that the entire industry is chauvinist, masculinist and even patriarchal to a degree difficult to imagine in this modern world. OK, very bad, very bad indeed. Now look at the output of the industry. It ain’t patriarchal and masculinist, is it? No one who has spent more than 10 minutes watching the TV ads could possibly believe that. So, what we seem to have is a system which turns the most appalling personal behaviour and beliefs on their head when it comes to the actual output of those pigs.

Why? Advertising exists to sell. Women spend more money than men. Ads must therefore appeal to women to gain the cash. Lust for lucre transforms personal attitudes, doesn’t it?

Which is pretty good of a socio-economic system, innit?