The objectification of women has real life consequences in the lives of real people
Anti violence against women campaigner and sexual assault survivor Kate Ravenscroft responded to my invitation for messages to share with the ad industry when I address the Mumbrella360 conference in Sydney tomorrow.
Kate, be assured, your message will be delivered.
One thing I’d really like said to the people who work in the advertising industry is to think about the big picture. To be willing to consider the big picture alongside their own aims, to consider the broader impacts their ads have on people, on culture.
For example, 1 in 3 women are victims of violence. That means at least one sixth of their audience are potentially victims of violence. Seeing that violence (especially violence against women but also any violence), treated flippantly, carelessly, can be devastating. Not just offensive. Or even hurtful. But it can actually provoke post-traumatic reactions and symptoms and worst of all, it entrenches and repeats the culture that enabled the vicitmisation of so many of us in the first place.
Violence against women, the objectification of women, the sexualisation of women – all of these things have real world consequences on the lives of real people. Advertising is a cultural product with power. If an ad has the power to sell things, to sell ideas, to change people’s buying patterns, people’s behaviour – then it has very significant power. The advertising industry cannot have it both ways. They cannot make use of their power to make lots of money and then turn around and say that what they do doesn’t really matter, isn’t important.
If they can do what they sell to clients then, what they do has a significant impact on the world. Therefore, it comes with a responsibility. A responsibility to think about the consequences beyond just those that are desired or intended.
The advertising industry has a great opportunity to change the world for the better. To use its potential to not entrench harmful and devastating behaviours, attitudes and norms.
To at least think about that bigger picture – the full consequences of their choices and their creative outputs, the negative and the positive consequences, the intended and the unintended consequences. Of course, their first commitment is to their client but that doesn’t have to rule out a consideration of the bigger picture.