The disappearance of men

Shortly before my vacations I was touring Belgium and Spain for some qualitative research for a mass marketer: as usual, participants (30-50 yo women) were introducing themselves and their life, and the researcher next to me pointed out something that I hadn’t grasped at first(me being the usual superficial man). In all their stories of their daily life, their needs, their habits, there was no mention of men whatsoever. Apart from their kids. No words about their husband, partner, boyfriend…

Fastforward to one week ago, when I’m in Amsterdam doing another qualitative, this time on 25-45 yo women: it’s warm-up time again, and what comes out is that most of these 16 women have kids, ranging from 6 months to a few years old. But only one of them is married, and living with her husband. All the others are single mothers. All of them, but one.

Now, I realize that this sounds particularly unusual to an italian such as me, given that our society is more conservative in many terms, from divorce rate to acceptance of single motherhood.

But overall, my recent trips in Madrid, Brussels and Amsterdam have been quite impressive. And they make me wonder who we, as advertisers, are thinking we’re talking to. Everytime we depict a woman in our work, she’s longing for her satisfaction through men: either her children, or a man that she would seduce/be gratified by/dominate. All in all, we look at women as if their whole world would evolve around (below or above) men.

When we portray men among each other, they’re into womenless, manly activities: videogames, sport, farting…

When we portray women among each other, they mostly talk about men, try on underwear or clothes to seduce men, and the like (OBs aside…)

I doubt that this is because most creatives and most marketers are men, because I don’t think that’s true anymore.

It seems an issue worth spending some post-vacation thoughts on…

Final Burp: When we say that we portray happily married families even when their actual number is declining because that’s everyone’s aspiration, are we just fooling ourselves?


2 responses to “The disappearance of men

  1. Yup,

    Definitely a change of referential here ! Western societies have been determined and built around men for centuries, while in reality, women built their own power and their own culture, which remained below the radar for most of the society… I mean, for men.

    Who are the classic writers, movie makers, advertisers (yeah) ? Mostly men, aren’t they ? Of course, they would not describe a society that would not be centered around men.

    Maybe DOVE’s genial breakthrough about women accepting their bodies for what they are (like, plump models, i.e. more than fine) hit a spot. At the end of the day, it is all not about living in the eye of “The Man”, but being comfortable in one’s own skin.

  2. Now is Advertising’s role to be a Social Commentary ?

    Ads that would really challenge the “general consensus” of society (with even single mothers admitting to the fact of dreaming of a perfect marriage) would have the potential to “make or break”.

    Will Advertisers take the risk ? Is it up to us Planners to show them that it is worth it ?

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