Friday, September 17, 2010

Ad Hotties vs. being naughty

Perhaps I got my gitch in a twist yesterday, but when I read about a new user-generated site called "" on Adrants, my first thought was that it was bad news for women in my industry.

Of course, I shared these thoughts, and got tweeted back by both Steve from 'rants and the @adhotties, basically telling me I was too uptight. Maybe I am.

It's ironic, because around my agency I've gotten a reputation for blogging a lot about sex and bodies and women's issues — which makes some people uncomfortable. But truth be told, as much as I am frank and liberated when it comes to blogging sexual or sexualized issues in ads, I try to keep it strictly (although creatively) professional. When it comes to my real life colleagues, I try to see them in a strictly professional way, too.

We work in a sexually-charged industry. And while it is nothing like Mad Men, no workplace will ever be able to escape the sexual dynamic. People flirt, make inappropriate jokes, share questionable content, and generally kid around. But if you observe these shenanigans, you will see that it is a fairly gender-equal phenomenon. In many cases, the humour is there to dispel the awkwardness.

Despite all the equal opportunity goofing around, I believe that a "hotties" site like this is more threatening to the status of women in advertising than it is to men. Sure, that's a double standard. We should know, because we created it.

It wasn't that long ago when naughty talk at work was much more devious. Older men would make thinly-veiled sexual comments to (often younger) women and revel in their discomfort. Those were the days when women were "put in their place" by a constant barrage of "compliments" and "jokes" that reminded them they were pretty faces first, and colleagues second. I was reminded by a longtime industry (female) friend that those days are closer behind us than we'd like to think.

So let me tell you something about myself: I write about sex in advertising, I am wearing an "I ♥ Boobies" cause bracelet (for a breast cancer charity), and I am a heterosexual man who appreciates female beauty. I am also a staunch supporter of women's rights and equality in the workplace, and I try to judge every professional colleague on what they do, not what they look like. I don't like things that threaten to tear the delicate fabric that separates the two worlds.

So look, folks. I get that is a joke. And I really enjoy the fact that it has quickly turned into an ironic sausage party of goofy-looking guys posting their pics for laughs.

But I still don't like this. Those of you outside the industry may enjoy the sweet irony of ad people exploiting themselves and their own, but to me it crosses the line. Present company excepted, we really are a remarkably good-looking industry because we are a charisma-driven one. But deciding if people who could be colleagues are "hot or not"? Let's just remember that Mad Men is historical fiction.

And let's remind ourselves to keep it that way.

Fair enough :)


  1. I agree with you about the sexism of the site. Only one of the guys pictured is moderately attractive, and you can't see any of his body. All the women are attractive though. Guess that's life, though- ugly guys and hot chicks, right?

    As far as your "I ♥ Boobies" bracelet, I'm rather surprised that you don't consider that sexist.

  2. Hey, "nobody"...

    Here's a cause marketing explanation of the bracelet campaign:

    If you still think it's sexist after that, no problem. I consider it a good awareness campaign celebrating breast health.

  3. It is always suspected when Adrants is writing about these things. Remember I named Steve H. the 'Cleavage in advertising'-blogger.
    Just check the images at the entries on the homepage.

    "" maybe is a joke, but a very bad one. And are people working in the advertising industry really that good looking? If they think so they are wearing blinkers.