There is a great article in Brandweek on what women want. Lots of experts are surveyed, including Michelle Miller, author of The Soccer Mom Myth, Ann Mack (JWT), Suzanne Kolb (E!), Adam Rockmore (ABC Daytime), Dan Suratt (Lifetime), Linda Landers (Girlpower*), Kelley Skoloda (Ketchum), Jack Bamberger and Nancy Weber (Meredith 360), an all-star contingent, to be sure. (Hats off to Marilyn Moore for assiduous research.)
There has been formidable change in the way in which women think about themselves. If we want a single measure of this change (something people can look back on in a hundred years and treat as a marker) we could do worse that focus on the new tag for Oxygen Media: "Live out loud."
When you think about how much of our culture was once devoted to persuading women to" live in quiet," this is an interesting development. Our culture once insisted that women not declare their intelligence, their initiative, or their sexuality. There were very substantial punishments for those who dared break the "live in quiet" rule. That someone like Oxygen Media can choose as their motto, "Live out loud" says that our culture is changing especially here.
But here’s the line that really jumped out at me:
Paradoxically, one effective way to reach women consumers is to be nicer to men. some advertising has replaced the "dumb blonde" stereotype with a "dumb husband." And that offends women.
"Husband-bashing is a really tired trend," says Kristin Petrick, director of strategy of SheHive. "I consider my husband my partner, and yet I see a lot of commercials aimed at women that make out husbands to be "the stupid male in your life." I don’t think that’s a very powerful message for women."
I agree entirely that this is a trend we have seen a lot of from the creative world. But I am not sure that the dumb husband is an idea created by advertising. As I have argued in this blog on a couple of occasions, the "dumb husband" was a role I think men carved out for themselves. (See my post, as below, "Who let the dogs out.")
I think that some men decided, now that women had new demands to make of them, the best idea was to present themselves as great, big Labradors, good hearted, not very smart, just barely housebroken and inclined to lead with their appetites and not their brains. It was an adapative strategy, because, hey, it’s pretty hard to stay mad at your laborador. I mean, really, he can’t help himself.
I would love to think that these comments from Moore and Petrick are a first indication that men are finally given up this dopey, demeaning transformation. I mean, yes, Labradors are lovable, but that’s pretty much all they are. After awhile, it starts to wear a little thin.
(I speak on behalf of all males to all males and I do so with a positively canine self assurance.)
McCracken, Grant. 2004. Who let the dogs out. This Blog Sits at the Intersection of Anthropology and Economics. May 13, 2004. here.
Moore, Marilyn A. 2008. What Women Want: The new terms of engagement. Brandweek. Vol. XLIX, no. 18, May 5, 2008, p. 58.