Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Advertising then and now

I've mentioned before, but I'm part of a survey pool for new products, new marketing campaigns, etc.

Because of my demographics as a 20-something woman, I end up taking a lot of surveys about things I'm not really interested in. I answer questions about things like cleaning supplies (am I concerned about the product hurting my family while still cleaning well?), cereal (is this healthy enough for my family?) and make up (how much am I willing to spend on a product nearly identical to 4 others out there?). It's somewhat annoying to answer repetitive questions about products the company feels are "women's products." From time to time, I get fun surveys about alcohol or movies, but mostly it's things traditionally advertised to women.

I've been rewatching Mad Men and this scene stands out even more to me in light of my own surveys: (embedding disabled).

In the scene, the all-male advertising staff puts the office secretaries in a testing room and watches as they all try on lipstick. The men say things like "Maybe we should have put a man in there so they'd take it seriously." After Peggy, the main character's secretary, displays some talent in coming up with catchy slogans, one of the men describes it as "like watching a dog playing piano."

Mad Men is a window into the blatant sexism of the early 60's, where men constantly disregard the women or view them as objects, where people of color are completely invisible (except in service jobs), where the queer characters repress their sexuality and hide themselves from the people around them.

But as I watch the show, I'm reminded of how much this hasn't changed. About how when I take surveys, I'm an age and a gender before I'm a person, about how the questions asked of me have as much to do with antiquated notions of gender binaries and what women "should" be concerned about as my own personal interests.

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