“Um, excuse me but the client would like to see him with his top off”

The first and only casting session I ever attended was for the Ajax Houseproud Hunk.  I’d been involved in every stage of the pitch and idea.  The product was for a new cleaning variant that meant that there was no residue after you sprayed your kitchen surface and wiped – there was no need to wipe again with a wet cloth.

The agency that we were pitching with showed us early ideas that involved what mums and housewives could do with the time saved from the second wipe.  As I remember it they including learning French or playing a round of golf.

I was fresh from doing some research into mums in the UK.  I’d been out and asked them what was going on, both those only working in the home and those with full and part time jobs.  One thing was clear.  They were not going to learn French in the time they saved wiping a surface.  Indeed many of them already were saving that notional time because they didn’t do a second wipe.  (Who does?)

But the product benefit would sell product and an ad campaign would ensure that the product had shelf room.  After I explained my problem with the ad concept to the rest of the team the creative director asked me a straight question.  “What is it that housewives do want then?”

“For someone else, anyone else, to do the cleaning”.

From this came the idea of the House proud Hunk.  The ad showed a hunk (obviously) cleaning someone’s kitchen with the slogan “Save him time cleaning – get him new Ajax!”.

I got to go along to the casting session, where the client asked me in a whisper please to ask the producers if the models auditioning could please take their shirts off.

Well, years later, once again we seem to have gone backwards : Cleaning ads no longer feature fantasy hunks doing the housework for hard pressed housewives but housewives dancing with joy after cleaning their own floors or scouring the house to be sure to be ready for their “prince”.

NewsUK’s recent poll that says that the ad industry is “still portraying women in subservient roles while men are depicted as powerful”.

Who cares if the advertising is effective at selling stuff?  Well women care for a start.  One of the most notable points in my research was that women notice how they are depicted and feel criticised and judged by it much more than men do.  Reflecting women’s real roles in life will lead to a competitive advantage versus other brands, so if I was writing ads that’s what I would do.  As Richard Huntington, CSO at Saatchi said recently of new research for Mumsnet: “Advertisers are still stuck in the rut of seeing mums in the role of cook, cleaner and nurse – while dad has fun playing outside and getting messy with his kids. We need to focus less on the drudgery, if we are to reflect the reality of modern mothers.”





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