Monthly Archives: February 2014

Portrayal of Women in Advertisements

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We’ve come a long way, maybe.  The portrayal of women in advertisements is one indicator of the progression of gender equality.  Sociological and communication theories dictate that Social Constructionism is the human understanding of how social functions operate in the world; and, how we, as humans, construct that rationalization into verbal and non-verbal messaging (i.e. ads).

In the Virginia Slims ad above, the caption reads: You’ve come a long way, baby.  Today, they use: Find Your Voice.  Essentially, they’ve gone from “Hey, you’re getting there,” to “Speak up.”   In a declining industry where nicotine addiction is dying, due to the social construct no longer considering smoking to be sexy, provocative, and progressive; but, rather, dirty, smelly, and downright unhealthy, the image that “Find Your Voice” conjures up is this one:

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Below are some other photos to examine the development of the general public perception of women. Businesses work off of perception in order to strategize how to best market their product and drive sales.  Provided are ads from 40-55 years ago and current day ads, in order to qualitatively assess how far we’ve progressed in gender equality, and also to consider how susceptible we are to the power of suggestion in media.

THEN    Image      

Granted, housecleaning burns calories; however, this ad signals that a woman’s top two priorities are a clean home and keeping her weight down – which, they may very well be!  What about making the focus more on improving health than on decreasing weightThe messaging is: An attractive woman is one who cleans and is slim. 

NOW  ImageHere we have women who do exhibit healthy weight, and they are proportional.  How about beautiful, healthy women (e.g. Olympians) who are not so proportional?  If we are told, “Beauty is as beauty does,” how about ads which focus more on the beautiful deeds that a woman accomplishes?  I’d love to see women leaders with beautiful skin who use Dove.  The messaging here is: Women are allowed to be heavier, as long as they’re proportional. 

THEN  ImageDoes this mean that women who are bad cooks make for bad wives? Or, does this imply women who can not cook should resign themselves wistfully to (God forbid!) never marrying?  The messaging suggests: Husbands are not to cook; wives are.

NOW ImageWhile Chef Gordon Ramsay is not a woman, it is interesting how an excellent male chef is tolerated for his nightmarish kitchen antics.  The amusement is so high, his infamy has spawned a TV show.  How is it, then, that women –  who are, according to social construct, supposed to be the cooks – are not viewed with such amusement for behaving similarly in the kitchen?  The messaging suggests: It’s okay for men to behave badly; women not so much.

THEN ImagePerhaps this ad of treating the woman as a misbehaving girl is more tongue-in-cheek.  However, domestic violence (not to mention other forms of abuse, general harassment and disparagement of the era) is a real issue; one not to be (pardon the pun) cheeky with.  The messaging suggests: Wives dare not make the foolish mistake of purchasing for your husband other brands, otherwise you have been warned and thereby merit the punishment that will ensue.

NOW  ImageThis ad for young women to attend this all-girls’ school ruptures the fairy tale notion that women have to rely on men to have a fulfilled life.  One of the best lines in the movie Pretty Woman is at the end, when Richard Gere asks Julia Roberts, “What happens after the princess gets rescued by the prince?”and she responds, “She rescues him right back.”  The messaging is: Be financially and emotionally self-sufficient.  You can achieve this through education. 

THEN  ImageThis ad has the word “woman” underscored to emphasize how difficult it is for a woman to open a bottle of ketchup.  The messaging is: Women are the “weaker sex.”  How will she eat if a man is not around??

NOW  ImageThis ad for make-up demonstrates how a woman can be feminine, beautiful, AND strong.  This works.  A thematic representation of strength could include other ways women demonstrate strength and femininity.  For example, a woman wearing MAC make-up giving birth in her home with her doula.  What better example of womanhood, beauty, strength, and power is that?  Another idea is to show women in formerly male dominated industries and professions, e.g. commercial airline pilots, police, etc.  The messaging here is:  Women can be strong and beautiful; one does not preclude the other.

THEN ImageWho came up with the idea that smoke in a woman’s face is an aphrodisiac?  Perhaps this is why this brand is no longer in existence.  The messaging here is: Women are such simpletons, they will follow you home after you exhale onto them like a VW Bug exhaust pipe.

NOW   ImageThis current ad for athletic wear signals practicality by calling the clothing “training,” not “trendy.” However, the colors and the jog bra scream “Look at me!”  The last thing a female jogger needs is to be harassed during a run when she’s in her zone.  This is not advisable for street running in a city (unless you wish to avoid being hit by an oncoming vehicle), it works for maybe a gym or the countryside. Is it possible to have muted colors; not neon?  How frustrating it is to be relegated to just neon and pastels for women’s athletic wear!  The messaging here is: Stand out from a crowd (in your stereotypical female colors).

THEN  ImageAds like these wreak havoc on marriages.  Home & kitchen appliances are NOT, generally speaking, what women want for Mother’s Day, birthdays, Christmas &/or any other major holiday.  The messaging here is: Your wife will love you for allowing her to keep the house clean.

NOW ImageAs part of “walking advertising,” this tank top asserts how women are intelligent creatures whose talent must be recognized by serving as our country’s leaders.  It is wasteful for them to be stuck in a kitchen &/or home.  The messaging suggests: Hey, Haters…If women were equal already, I wouldn’t be wearing this shirt.

THEN  ImageThis tiresome ad for vitamins associates women with cleaning (again!), and attempts to connect how a man’s wife would look better if she could only work harder.  The messaging is: A woman will become even more attractive when she works hard cleaning her home.  Start pill pushing to satisfy your needs.

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This Pantene commercial (click on image) drives home the poignant truth about how women are not only judged negatively, they are judged in stark contrast to the men who exhibit the exact same behaviors.  Why?  Because it is not in alignment with the social construct.  I personally love the truth of this ad, and, I love how they also show a woman with a pixie haircut, as well; not just caveman-pulling length hair.  The messaging suggests:  Confidence makes women immune to the labels and they will continue to feel and look fabulous, which only perpetuates their success.  You can get there with great hair.

THEN Image  This ad for neckties shows a man in bed.  Logic dictates: Why would a man wear a tie to bed?  The wife is literally kneeling, and the husband is in a power posture with his hands behind his head and his chest puffed out.  The messaging is clear: Dominance and subservience. 

NOW  ImageMemac Ogilvy & Mather Dubai (i.e. NOT the USA) created a series of ads for UN Women (an entity under the United Nations) to demonstrate how actual Google searches (See Blog on Top 10 Websites of the World to know that Google is #1) reveal the continued widespread prevalence of sexism and discrimination against women. These ads expose stereotypes as well as outright denial of women’s rights.  The searches are placed over the mouths of the women, clearly signaling the opposite of Virginia Slim’s “Find Your Silence” with the message that the woman’s voice has been silenced all over the world.  The searches bear lines such as: Women should…stay at home, be slaves, be in the kitchen, not speak in church; and, Women cannot…drive, be bishops, be trusted.   The messaging here is: We need to continue making the case for women’s rights, empowerment and equality.

We’ve come a long way, maybe.  Together, we can get there.

Yentl…er, um…Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, author, cultural analyst, coach, speaker, and facilitator.  CorporateLookingGlass.com

©Rossina Gil, 2014

Top Websites of the World

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The Alexa Ranking sorts websites according to their popularity. Popularity is defined and measured by the average of daily visitors and their page views. 

Interestingly, the USA currently holds 8 of the Top 10 most popular sites in the world, with the other 2 of the Top 10 going to China (denoted below in CAPS).  Take note, American Grade School Educators, this is why children must start learning Chinese; not French, even though it is a lovely language with a fascinating culture. 

 

WORLD RANKINGS

1.     Google

The percent of global Internet users who visit Google.com is about 30-42% daily.  The Japanese and Chinese are conducting searches in English at a high rate. 

 2.    FaceBook

FaceBook is a classic case of a company that is late to market entry in Japan. Consequently, Mixi.jp, Japan’s native and most popular social networking site, ranks #8 in Japan, with FB at #31.

3.    YouTube

Although in China, Youku (similar to YouTube) ranks #9, because people in China are not allowed (by the government) to watch videos from YouTube.

4.    Yahoo!

Like Google, Yahoo!China has imposing barriers to entry in the Chinese market, losing out to local competitors like Sina (ranked #4 in China) and Sohu (ranked #7).

5.    BAIDU*

6.    Amazon

7.    Wikipedia

8.    TENCENT QQ**

9.    Windows Live (Hotmail)

10.  LinkedIn

 

*So, what is Baidu?

Baidu is the #1 search engine in China, with more than 70% market share. Besides website, MP3, Image, Video, and other search services, it also offers Baidu Hi (similar to MySpace), Baidu Zhidao (similar to Yahoo! Answers), Baidu Tieba (similar to Google Groups), and more.

**What is Tencent QQ?

Known as QQ for short, it is the largest IM (instant messaging) service provider in China.  It also includes a shopping platform (Consumer-to-Consumer).

 

CATEGORICAL PATTERNS

While there are definite national patterns that are amusing from a cultural perspective (to follow below in bold & parentheses), one can see in the worldwide rankings that a familiar global pattern emerges from the following four uses of the internet: information (news/research), communications (social networking, file sharing), shopping (marketplace), and entertainment.

 

TOP 5

The USA has the same Top 4 as the worldwide rankings above, with #5 being Live.com.  Here’s a look at the Top 5 in three other countries (namely, France, Japan, and China).

    FRANCE

1. Orange

Orange is France’s leading mobile operator and provider of Internet access. As an internet portal, Orange offers the French news, sports, celebrities and international aid.

2. Comment Ça Marche

Literally “How it works,” it’s a website to find answers to questions. (Reflective of the French mind.  Des Cartes would be proud).

3. Google

4. EBay

5. Leboncoin

Classifieds. (Like Craigslist).

     JAPAN

1. Yahoo.co.jp
Yahoo! is much stronger in Japan than Google, since Yahoo! had quicker market entry and focus on partnership building. (The Japanese prefer to work with those who value Relationship over Task).

2. Google.co.jp
Google Map’s street view launch (2009) boosted its appeal in Japan. (Another cultural clue, since the Japanese map system is not intuitive to Americans, and many others).

3. fc2.com
A free and user-friendly website creation and blog hosting company.

4. YouTube.com
Google surpassed the native video website NicoNico Douga, due to copyright issues which YouTube was faster to contain and solve. (Cultural clue is that Americans have more lawyers in California than the entire country of Japan).

5. Rakuten.co.jp
Ecommerce (like Amazon and eBay combined). Its founder, Hiroshi Mikitani, is one of the Top 10 internet billionaires.  (The Japanese love to shop, and they love to shop brand names).

     CHINA

(All websites are under the surveillance and control of the Beijing government.  Much like its history, barriers to entry are severe for outsiders, yet persistence has a pay-off because a “technologically plugged-in” population as large as China can wield a staggering amount of economic power).

1. Baidu

Search Engine.

2. QQ (Tencent)

IM.

3. Google.cn

4. Sina.com.cn

Portal site (similar to Yahoo!). It provides news, mail, a blog platform, IM, communities, etc.

5. Taobao.com

Ecommerce (similar to EBay).  (The Chinese have been hailed for centuries as the Merchants of the World).

 

USA corporations would fare better to hire some in-house global organization development practitioners.

 

Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, author, cultural analyst, coach, speaker, and facilitator.  CorporateLookingGlass.com. 

Resources:

blog.btrax.com/en/2010/03/15/top-10-most-popular-websites-in-japan-2/

Reviews.gcoupon.com/view/countries

topsitesblog.com/chinese-websites/

topsitesblog.com/french-websites/

©Rossina Gil, 2014

 

America’s Dystopia: Ageism

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In an era where longevity is extending and an economy where postponement of retirement may be a financial necessity, many Baby Boomers elect to continue to work.  However, at some organizations, it is expected, as an unwritten rule, that personnel “opt out” at age 58.*   Many Gen Y/Millennials (Gen Y/M) believe that Baby Boomers are outdated, using approaches that were effective 20-30 years ago. 

How do other organizations strategize to retain its most experienced talent?  What practices are put into place to integrate the cultural merger of the stark generation gap that exists between Baby Boomers and Gen Y/M’s?  Some organizations are actively working on bridging the gap by raising awareness through 360-degree evaluations, Diversity & Inclusion programs, online cultural tools, and Leadership Development workshops.  However, change agents can only introduce awareness opportunities, they cannot force change.  A personal epiphany as to how to operate more effectively with others must come from within.  One Gen Y/M executive complained, “What kind of strategy is that?!  Wait ‘til they die?!” 

 

Logan’s Run

Dystopia is an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives.  In the 1976 film “Logan’s Run” (based on a 1967 Sci-Fi novel by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson), the world is strictly regulated by executing its citizens at age 30.  In today’s workplace, one Gen Y/M executive frustratedly asked why his 55-yr old colleague does not retire.  Are we living the real-life version of Logan’s Run at cut-off age 55?

What is the benefit of retaining seasoned, senior executives?  One main benefit is people with a lot of experience tend to not panic in times of crisis.  They understand how situations are interrelated.  When seasoned professionals experience stress, it may result in some suppressed short-term memory; however, they still have recessive learning, muscle memory, from which to draw and execute wise decision-making.  Stability in large corporations is key for the economy.  Those executives who do not have substantial experience, are more likely to choke and fail.  

 

Identity is Destiny

Cross-Cultural experts and sociologists have found that national societies unconsciously desire to see a reflection of their country’s identification in the workplace.  If the country (e.g. the USA) is relatively young, dynamic, quick growth, and innovative, it expects and recruits talent to be the same.  In other, more ancient civilizations, there is a high degree of reverence.  In Japan, for example, there is a national holiday, Toshiyori no Hi on September 15; which is a day to practice Respect for the Aged.  Japan places a strong value on tradition, honor, quality, and age.  So, while an American may call an edifice “old, built in 1900,” a European may reference the same edifice as being “new.” 

 

Lessons through the Ages

So, would you rather have the young surgeon, who has learned the latest medical practices?  Or, would you rather have the seasoned surgeon, who knows what to do when the emergency generator kicks in and you are suddenly losing blood unexpectedly?  How about both?  This goes back to how the much longer-history civilizations develop talent and practice succession planning through Master/Student apprenticeship, also known as mentoring.  Mature organizations, i.e. those wise in comprehending its role, do not allow seasoned talent to resign, self-demote, and be made redundant in the next round of lay-offs. 

 

How “mature” is your organization’s view on Talent Development, Recruitment, and Succession Planning?  Know this before it’s your turn to take Logan’s Run.    

 

(USA) Age ID Quiz 

Select ONE answer from each of the 10 questions below that best identifies you.

1.  Which of the following meant the most to you?

A)    Elvis joins the Army.

B)    Jimi Hendrix dies.

C)    MTV debuts.

D)    Kurt Cobain dies.

 

2.  cu l8tr is:

A)       Nonsense.

B)       A typo.

C)       What the “kids” use to text.

D)        An invitation to see a friend.

 

3.  I plan to stay in a company_______:

A)    …until the day I die.

B)    …until (hopefully early) retirement.

C)    …depending on my boss/work environment.

D)    …until something else opens up.

 

4.  On average my money currently goes towards:

A)    Medicine

B)    Grandchildren

C)    Mortgage

D)    Food

 

5.  I mostly make decisions based on:

A)    Authority figures.

B)    Data and facts.

C)    My peers.

D)    Reaching a consensus.

 

6.  I obtain my local information by means of…

A)    My neighbors.

B)    The newspaper.

C)    The 6 o’clock news.

D)    The internet.

 

7.  When it comes to technology I…

A)    Don’t like it/am confused by it.

B)    Ask someone to help me with it, occasionally.

C)    Am adequate at it (but secretly need help on certain things).

D)    Don’t know life without it.

 

8.  How often do you buy the newspaper?

A)    Every day and all prints.

B)    I have a subscription.

C)    Sundays for the coupons.

D)    Never.

 

9.  The war I mainly remember as a child is

A)    WWII.

B)    Cold War.

C)    Vietnam.

D)    Iraq/Afghanistan.

 

10.  The president I will most likely remember is…

A)    FDR.

B)    JFK.

C)    Ronald Reagan.

D)    Bill Clinton.

 

Results

Mostly A’s = Silent Generation (1901-1945)

Mostly B’s = Baby Boomer (1946-1964)

Mostly C’s = Generation X (1965-1980)

Mostly D’s = Generation Y/Millennials (1981-1999)

 

Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Gen X’er, wanna-be Centenarian, Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, author, cultural analyst, coach, speaker, and facilitator.  CorporateLookingGlass.com. 

 

Sources:

Malcom Gladwell, What the Dog Saw, 2009.

My CSUN students, Spring 2011.

 

* The Global Chairman/CEO of a Fortune 500 company stated in Fall 2012, “We have a norm where retirement age, mandatory, if you will, is 60.  And, so the norm is 58.  I’ve encouraged so many of our (senior executives) to start their ‘second chapter’ at age 58.”  

©Rossina Gil, 2014

Super Bowl Commercials 2014

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The best advertising agencies are selected for the coveted commercial slots for the once-a-year, America’s most watched event, the Super Bowl.  According to Forbes, approximately half of TV viewers tune in just for the commercials.  At $4 million dollars for 30-seconds air time, it’s got to be good.  By good, this means the advertisers have to know how to tap into what consumers want.  So what are the advertisers going for this year?  There were three general categories: Nostalgia, America, and (the old staple) Humor.

 

#1 – Nostalgia (& other warm fuzzies)

During this time of such an enduring economic recession, it is common for most people to wish to hail back to earlier days when times were better.  Think mid-life crisis.  It is a form of escapism…a way to escape the reality of the moment and travel back through time.  The commercials in this category are: Seinfeld (from the ‘90s), Radio Shack (the ‘80s called), Dannon Oikos (Full House reunion – those Olson twins are fully grown now), MetLife (Charlie Brown), and Toyota (Muppets).

All of these advertisers are targeting a consumer who is in the age 40 – 60 range.

A massive winner that tangentially fits in this category of happy feelings is Budweiser.  It reportedly had 34 millions viewers BEFORE the game even started!  Americans are known for loving their dogs.  The USA has been known to throw its citizens into jail for killing a dog, leaving some people around the world in complete shock.  The Golden Retriever (e.g. Old Yeller) puppy’s love with the horse demonstrated the intelligence of two of America’s favorite animals.  It conjured up feelings of loyalty, innocence, sincerity, youth, longing, love, and happiness.  Americans believe whoever is not susceptible to its charm must not be human.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQB7QRyF4p4

 

#2 – America

Reinforcing cultural identity is risky business in a country as diverse as the USA.  At least four companies chose to take this route.

Cheerios raised the ante by providing another commercial with the interracial family.  This was a bold move worth applause because it shows the American  spirit of how you can’t cower us into a corner just because there are several bigots out there who haven’t caught up to the fact that it’s 2014.   According to the 2010 Pew Survey, more than a third of American adults (35%) say they have a family member who is married to someone of a different race.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LKuQrKeGe6g

Coca-Cola continues to “like to teach the world to sing” by singing “America the Beautiful” in different languages.  This focus on Diversity & Inclusion is on point to recognize that America is a country of immigrants.  Perhaps the sudden rush of patriotism after 9/11 makes this one harder to swallow in most of middle America.  The coastal fringes are living this reality. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8iM73E6JP8

Jaguar took the funny approach to reinforcing what America is.  Americans tend to still admire the “Mother Country” (i.e. England) AND there is a fascination with the bad boy image.  This historical cultural heritage is one to emulate.  Jaguar “knocked this one out of the park” with its suave messaging of superiority: Have you ever noticed how in Hollywood all the villains are played by Brits?  Maybe we just sound right?  We’re more focused.  More precise.  We’re always one step ahead.  We have a certain style, an eye for detail.  And we’re obsessed by power.  A stiff upper lip is key.  And we all drive Jaguars.  Oh yes, it’s good to be badhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Bls1KKDwmo

Chrysler “hit the nail on the head” by using a great, living American icon as a spokesperson, Bob Dylan.  Not only does Bob embody America’s spirit, the commercial concurrently shows other national celebrity icons (e.g. Marilyn Monroe; James Dean), as he identifies America’s attributes and beliefs: “original,” “true cool,” “legacy,” “cars made America,” “conviction;” “American pride.”  His finale is priceless: “So let Germany brew your beer and Switzerland make your watch, let Asia assemble your phone,” and then with an intonation that sounds like words that would activate us as “Manchurian Candidate” consumers, Bob almost mandates us with, “WE will BUILD your car.”  It is a powerful ending.

 

#3 – Humor

Stephen Colbert is one of America’s current “funny guys.”  Just to look at him and hear him talk makes one laugh.  His commercial for Pistachios is simple and funny enough to lead consumers to buy a bag of these nuts, just to keep laughing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MErkYH-FNo

The Audi “Doberhuahua” falls into this category; as well as Volkswagen with German engineers sprouting wings, rainbows emerging from a German engineer’s rear, and a quick take on the Freudian penis envy (see picture above).

Humor is also a form of momentary escapism AND it is a part of the American personality, this is why it is a staple.  The joke is typically made at the expense of the audience laughing at someone less fortunate (i.e. we laugh AT them), placing us in a one-up position.  It has zero connection to the product, and it does lead us to like the product because funny is important to us.

Bottomline: The Super Bowl commercials underscore how America is undergoing a cultural transition.

 

Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, author, cultural analyst, coach, speaker, and facilitator.  CorporateLookingGlass.com.

Resources:

Pew Survey, 2010.

Forbes.com

© Rossina Gil, 2014