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Backlash: Afros, Vaginas and PMS

We recently had a Lunch & Learn with the same title as this blog post. If you're going to give a presentation about race and gender issues in advertising, you can't back away from the topic. It is what it is.

It all started with a series of discussions in The Account Planning Lair over the summer. We wondered if there was a new trend: Consumer outrage about offensive advertising, stinging online critiques, followed by ads getting pulled within a week.

First there was the "Everything I Do is Wrong" campaign by the California Milk Processors and sexism critiques (pulled July21).

Then the Summer's Eve "Hail to the V" online videos were accused of using  ethnic stereotypes (pulled July 27).

And finally a Nivea for Men "Look Like You Give a Damn" print execution in GQ was called racist by some, insensitive by others (pulled August 18).

I asked Abby, our planning intern, to help investigate after the third incident. She unearthed fascinating facts and artifacts to inform the dialogue. We ended up with more questions than answers. Are ads going too far to get attention? Is this cultural cluelessness or provocative strategy? Is social media reflecting, amplifying, or distorting consumer reactions? What should we as advertising professionals take from all the brouhaha and ballyhoo?

And the most difficult question of all for me: Can you raise these questions about sensitive subjects and discuss them in a business meeting without it getting weird? I found out that at Rodgers Townsend, you sure can. People were as curious about what their colleagues thought as they were opinionated themselves. It didn't get weird. We talked about it in that no-taboos, straightforward RT way. We munched on homemade cookies. And we laughed out loud at this clip from The Colbert Report on vaginal puppeteering. This clip is safe for work … if you work at RT. Enjoy, and talk amongst yourselves.


Finally, if you'd like to take a peek inside RT, click here for a link to the presentation.