Monday, May 27, 2013

Do undemanding consumers get the brands they deserve?

These Australian ads for Lean Cuisine, by woman-focussed agency Hello I'm Venus, presumably represent the culmination of a great deal of research and insights regarding female consumers. ("We’re here to help you ‘get’ women" is their selling proposition.)

When featured on Campaign Brief, however, the ads drew a litany of criticism.

Here's a sample:
"It's patronising, dated, sexist and lacking any understanding of women let alone loyalists to the brand."  
"Venus is an agency which specialises in advertising to women, and supposedly they get women better than a regular agency does. 
Does this then mean that women are as vacuous and empty-headed as these ads suggest they are? Because this stuff is straight outta 1955." 
"This has to be a shit stirring prequel to the real work because if a guy came out with this, he'd be laughed outta the boardroom and branded a sexist pig."
Compare this to the PR version:
Bec Brideson, founder of Hello I'm Venus: "This campaign reinforces the nutritious,convenient options for women that Lean Cuisine provides. The campaign is a cheeky shoutout to her. We know that behind every successful woman is her microwave." 
Tara Lordsmith, Simplot Australia general manager of retail marketing: "Our loyalcommunity of over 55k Facebook fans have told us they enjoy the cheeky and sassyattitude that comes with the Lean Cuisine creative. The development of this campaigndemonstrates our understanding of the modern woman and her vision to succeed in allaspects of life."
The Facebook page in question does, indeed, have over 57,000 fans, and the level of customer engagement is high. They post endless "girly" captioned pics like this:

259 likes, 4 comments, 25 shares
From a pure marketing perspective, they're doing something right. (Socially, anyway — the case study doesn't list any actual sales objectives or results.) So why does the campaign leave such a bad taste in some people's mouths?

It's the difference between consumer and critical audiences.

Lighthearted stereotypes and platitudes are popular online, even though they reinforce old-fashioned gender clich√©s. (Some Campaign Brief readers identified the era these ads belong in as not '50s but '80s.) Hello I'm Venus didn't invent the "sassy single professional woman" trope, nor did they popularize it. They're just riding the wave.

Campaign Brief, on the other hand, attracts ad people. And ad people are brutally critical of ads that other ad people do.

I have to agree with the advertiser, Ms. Lordsmith, on one thing. People are identifyimg with this brand on Facebook.

414 likes, 10 comments, 90 shares
This vacuous, superficial brand.

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