An advertising agency CCO is spearheading a campaign to fight the objectification of women in ads and other media.
Madonna Badger, founder and CCO of Manhattan-based, Badger and Winters Group, anonymously launched a video, "We are #WomenNotObjects" in mid-January. The two-and-a-half-minute-long film contains a montage of ads and branded social media posts, which were returned in response to a Google image search for "objectification of women."
Some of these ads are reproduced in placard form and a series of women each hold an image, whilst delivering a sarcastic observation. For example, a highly suggestive image from Burger King is accompanied by the line, "I love giving blow-jobs to sandwiches."
The campaign hopes to spark a wider conversation and drive change. Badger says: "The campaign is aimed at everyone who needs to think about what we are doing and how we can change the way we portray women in advertising and media."
When viewing the images in the video, Badger’s message is one with which it is hard to disagree. It’s also fair to say that, while some brands appear to have been singled out, this really could have included ads from hundreds of brands, not just those featured. (Although, that Tom Ford Men’s cologne ad...)
Indeed, it is partly Badger’s own involvement in sexually suggestive ads that has brought her to focus on this issue. In the early nineties, she was the creative lead on Calvin Klein’s advertising and was behind a stream of ads and spots for the brand’s (then new) underwear range, which were considered extremely provocative. Some of these ads featured a young Kate Moss and Mark Wahlberg (then aka Marky Mark), both scantily clad.
Badger’s life was hit with unimaginable tragedy on Christmas Day 2011, when a house fire claimed the lives of her three young daughters and her parents. Following a spell away from agency life in the wake of this horrific accident, Badger has returned with a mission and hopes others may follow suit. "As a female-lead creative agency, we believe it is our responsibility to affect this issue in the way that we can – through our work," she says.
The campaign does beg the question: what depictions of women are acceptable in advertising? For some, the line between "sexy" and "objectification" might be a fuzzy one. Badger says: "I can tell you that it will not be fuzzy in our work moving forward." Her agency, which specializes in beauty, fashion and luxury, states on its website homepage, "In 2016, Badger & Winters made a commitment to never objectify women in our work."
She explains how company has developed a series of four questions to assess creative approaches and processes, "Props—does the woman have a choice or a voice in this situation? Plastic—is the image manipulated to the extent that the look is not humanely achievable? Parts—is the woman reduced to just a sexually provocative body part, not a whole person? Overall—would you be comfortable to see your sister, best friend, or yourself in this image?"
Badger is leaving it up to others to consider their roles in this context and decide what, if any, action to take. "We are doing our part and what is right for our agency and what we believe is right for women," she says, adding, "If other agencies are inspired by our direction, they can make the decision to play their part."