Monday, April 14, 2008

"'Man as idiot' isn't going over very well these days."

Glenn Sacks and Richard Smaglick on male bashing in advertising:

The way the advertising industry portrays men has drawn increasing scrutiny in both the trade press and the mainstream media. Defenders of the status quo -- in which men are depicted as irresponsible fathers and lazy, foolish husbands -- are starting to feel outnumbered. It's an understandable feeling....

The evidence is clear: "Man as idiot" isn't going over very well these days.

At least there is some push back on this type of negative advertising.



Blogger N/A said...

I'm glad to see this going out of style, though I'm unhappy to be lumped into a category with Bill Maher. (I guess a broken clock can be right twice a day after all)

I must admit, though, I haven't paid much attention to how people like me are depicted on TV since I canceled my cable subscription. It would seem ignorance is bliss in this case-- I've been much happier since I stopped paying $50 per month for the privelege of being insulted on a daily basis.

9:46 AM, April 14, 2008  
Blogger Helen said...


I am also no Bill Maher fan but like you say...

Getting rid of the cable was probably good for your overall mental health anyway, with the onslaught of negativity that it runs day and night, it gets to be a bit much.

10:21 AM, April 14, 2008  
Blogger Thor's Dad said...

I think Sonic drive-in's are some of the worst. The woman is so condescending and the guy is an amazing idiot. I don't eat there anyway but the advertising guarantees it. Just a note on cable, having a touch of insomnia, let me say that 95% of the programing on cable after mid-night consists of nothing but infomercials which are more depressing than the regular programming.

10:26 AM, April 14, 2008  
Blogger Peregrine John said...

Now if only some sort of pushback could be devised for openly misandrist laws...

10:57 AM, April 14, 2008  
Blogger Helen said...

Peregrine John,

I wonder what staring at kids between 12-14 means? This law is outrageous--pretty soon, just looking at a kid will be against the law. As if it is not bad enough already with adults (particularly men) fearing that they will be sued or worse everytime they come in contact with a child.

11:09 AM, April 14, 2008  
Blogger DADvocate said...

That people with as diverse political beliefs as Bill Maher, Mike McConnell and others agree on this topic shows the degree of the problem. Many situation comedies portray the man as idiot also.

The law proposed in Maine is insane. I predict a reduction in attendance at females sporting events. Talk about idiots.

11:23 AM, April 14, 2008  
Blogger Sloan said...

I often find myself pointing this out to my wife and daughter...not in a snide way, but rather to communicate how much it bothers me. "We just insulted and stereotyped 50% of the population, so buy our product!" The frequency of these types of commercials on TV is really alarming.

We all know how it would be if the tables were turned and women were on the receiving end of this nonsense. I'm glad somebody is finally paying attention.

11:54 AM, April 14, 2008  
Blogger Cham said...

Before I start this comment I want to let everyone know that when the Dodge Hemi ads started with the suburban guy that was so proud he bought a giant truck with a 5.7 liter engine I did write Chrysler and complain.

Putting that aside, there seems to be enough of these men-as-idiots TV commercials to allow me to think that they must work on some level. The advertising industry makes copious use of statistics and focus groups. So I speculate which hot button these commercials touch on to make them successful.

I'm not necessarily buying the men-are-privileged defense. I am more inclined to think that some men might feel that they take the role the fun-loving part of relationship and their wives are the serious decision makers (or put a b word on it if you will) In the ad the men want the big fun truck, the men don't really care about the taxes, the men aren't inclined to make decision at the drive-thru about which calorie-laden disaster to order. Some may want to see themselves as laid-back, excited and happy. It's sort of like the way advertisers always use thin people in their ads: The population may not exactly be thin and healthy but they like to identify with people who are thin and healthy.

You can reference Helen's post about men waiting longer to marry, hence, waiting longer to take on adult roles, a few posts down from this one for more on this idea. Males might be more inclined to look at themselves as fun happy people rather than take-charge decision makers where, in the men-as-idiots commercials, that role is relegated to a somewhat grating and pushy female SO.

But on some occasions I am starting to see a different male role in some newer ads. It turns out, in the advertising world, the only member of the family worthy of selecting a cell phone plan is the dad and he happily chooses a plan so that his tween daughter can talk endlessly with her friends (the subliminal message here is that if you want to be viewed as a good dad you will let your kid have free rein with the phone). Also, the only person who is smart enough to choose a mop or vacuum cleaner is a man.

Don't jump on my case here, I am just speculating on what the advertisers are doing.

12:55 PM, April 14, 2008  
Blogger luxurytwist said...

It does work. I'm not jumping on you, but the reason is not what you think. It's that women spend more money than men, 75 percent by some accounts. Thus the advertising caters to the impulses of those who spend the money, not those who earn the money.

And yes, as it turns out, those impulses are commonly condescending, anti-male, and dare I say it, bitchy. Ad execs are, in fact, responding to their market, and only doing what works. That this is what works is an issue women should think about, but likely never will, despite whatever minor backlash exists.

1:03 PM, April 14, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bashing men & portraying them as idiots is the only way women can feel good about themselves, because there are no positive female role models.

All of this translates in everyday life. In the workplace- women, especially the 20 somethings- where I work talk to me and all of the men here with a very condescending tone & constantly go completely out their way to try to make you 'look' stupid- just nit-picking for some tiny flaw or mistake that we all can make- & of course ANYONE can just look for fault- just constantly looking for fault while doing nothing productive. They are always on edge too- you can cut the tension in the air with a knife- just waiting & looking for you to do or say anything even remotely or vaguely 'wrong' so they can criticize, while they have social license to say the MOST crude, rude, unthinking thoughtless & sexist garbage- completely unaccountable (I haven't met a female who was accountable for anything in over 20 years).

It seems to me 98% of women would criticize the winning football team for dirty jerseys. From what I've experienced over the last two decades with women is this the limit of female intelligence- we all need critical thinking- but this is all females can do- I guess this is why they never do anything truly productive or invent anything & why they do not have positive role models.

1:04 PM, April 14, 2008  
Blogger Cham said...

I don't know Peter, in the case of the Hemi commercial and the Sonic commercial their demographic is clearly male.

1:06 PM, April 14, 2008  
Blogger luxurytwist said...

Yes, I am wrong, because clearly I was saying that every commercial ever made fits exactly into the pattern I was trying to tell you about, so your two examples out of the last two decades disproves that completely, and you no longer have to consider that perspective at all. Logical. (sigh)

1:22 PM, April 14, 2008  
Blogger Cham said...

Peter, I'm not trying to disprove you, I'm just noting that the commercials that seem to be the worst of the worst in my book, seem to be aimed at the men.

1:30 PM, April 14, 2008  
Blogger Ronnie Schreiber said...

Putting that aside, there seems to be enough of these men-as-idiots TV commercials to allow me to think that they must work on some level. The advertising industry makes copious use of statistics and focus groups. So I speculate which hot button these commercials touch on to make them successful.

I'm just noting that the commercials that seem to be the worst of the worst in my book, seem to be aimed at the men.

They only give the appearance of being aimed at men. These ads are successful because woman have controlling input on about 80% of consumer purchases and women enjoy ads that make fun of men.

Secondarily, the ads work because men are generally goal oriented. We'll buy a tool from a store we don't like if it's the tool we need because we have a task to do.

If a women, however, thinks that a firm disrespects women, she'll boycott them.

The infamous Dodge Durango ads with the clueless husband (gets lost with his boat in the desert because he won't 'ask directions' from the in-dash navigation system which was most likely engineered by a mile, burns his oven mitt on the bbq) were particularly egregious because they combined an anti-male theme with a mindset in Chrysler's ad agency that liked poking fun at their own customers. The original "got a Hemi in that?" ads with the two yahoos had them driving an old Plymouth Duster, a MOPAR product.

The few times that advertisers poke fun at women, there are usually negative reactions. Google 'budweiser, referee, wife'.

2:06 PM, April 14, 2008  
Blogger Ronnie Schreiber said...

Of course the most misandrist ads are the public service announcements about child abuse that assume that abusers are males. Considering that mothers are much more likely to harm their children than fathers, and twice as likely to kill them the ads are outrageous.

2:09 PM, April 14, 2008  
Blogger Ronnie Schreiber said...

"by a male"

2:10 PM, April 14, 2008  
Blogger Wayne said...

There's another component to consider here, too. It has long been known to advertisers that ads that are obnoxious will result in the name of the product being remembered, even after the content of the ad is forgotten. So, the ads probably are created with the thought that they will stimulate purchases from the women for making them feel superior, and also from the men, just by keeping in their upper mind after they forget what commercial it was associated with.

2:28 PM, April 14, 2008  
Blogger Joe said...

I love their point that if men are idiots, what does that say about the women that married them?

3:31 PM, April 14, 2008  
Blogger SGT Ted said...

The original "got a Hemi in that?" ads with the two yahoos had them driving an old Plymouth Duster, a MOPAR product.

And this was one of the better ads, as those of us guys in a certain demographic really know guys like the two in that Plymouth; a couple of grease monkey car culture fans checking out a classic car.

4:42 PM, April 14, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's the unwritten rule in comedy that people "in" the group can say things about the group that people "out" of the group can't. Commercials are like this too, I think. Some of the humor about guys, guys can appreciate and laugh at (like the "Man Rules" one, for example). Some of the "stupid husband" or "stupid boyfriend" commercials may fall into this category, but I think most are made for women. Hence, they violate the unwritten rule. But advertisers don't care because it generates income.

It's an ancient advertising technique: The stupid person doesn't use Product A, but the smart person does. The ad maker of course, sets things up so the viewer identifies with the smart person and therefore has the desire to use Product A.

The unfortunate thing is, they pit husbands and wives or parents and children against each other in this little money-making game. Not nice to have strangers interfering with your marriage arrangements.

5:06 PM, April 14, 2008  
Blogger Ronnie Schreiber said...

And this was one of the better ads, as those of us guys in a certain demographic really know guys like the two in that Plymouth; a couple of grease monkey car culture fans checking out a classic car.

I met the two actors at a couple of the auto shows. One of them, Jon Reep, parlayed the ad campaign into an appearance on Last Comic Standing and he won last year. Talented guy.

Still, marketing folks have curious form of tunnel vision. They simply can't acknowledge that their creations are anything less than genius work.

I'm credentialed to the auto show media previews and get to talk to marketing folks a bit. The Chrysler marketing guys couldn't or wouldn't see that making fun of loyal MOPAR guys isn't a good idea. But then Mitsubishi (and Carnival Cruise lines) didn't seem to care that Iggy Pop's Lust For Life is about scoring heroin.

5:34 PM, April 14, 2008  
Blogger Sloan said...

I think it's quite possible that some of the ads we're talking about were written the way are simply because humor sells...and it's a lot safer these days to poke fun at men than at women.

7:25 PM, April 14, 2008  
Blogger Ed said...

Am I to understand that you people still watch TV? You are aware that one can download BSG or The Sopranos or Firefly on teh intarwebs, commercial-free?

12:19 AM, April 15, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You don't have to be a dumb ass to want a hemi. But with today's fuel prices, it sure helps.

7:04 AM, April 15, 2008  
Blogger Ronnie Schreiber said...

You don't have to be a dumb ass to want a hemi. But with today's fuel prices, it sure helps.

With cylinder deactivation, they actually get decent fuel economy on the highway. A Chrysler 300C with the 5.7 L HEMI is EPA rated at 24 mpg highway. For a car that heavy with an engine that powerful, 24 mpg is pretty impressive. The difference between 24 and 30 mpg is less than $10 for a trip between Detroit and Chicago. For plenty of people, the additional comfort and safety of a larger car is worth $10.

7:21 PM, April 15, 2008  
Blogger Joe said...

Since when is gas mileage the main criteria for purchasing a car? (Even for my commuter car reliability was far more important with mileage second. For my family car, mileage was utterly irrelevant to me.)

12:16 AM, April 16, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, auto report. Those 300 C's with the hemi DO get on down the road when you romp on 'em.

12:23 PM, April 16, 2008  
Blogger Serket said...

If liberal men are less likely to address this issue, then it is a good thing that Bill Maher has joined in.

Thor's Dad: Some of Sonic's commercials show two men. I've never really thought of them as anti-anything, they just seem really strange. There is a recent one where the wife can't decide which sandwich to get and the guy tells her to just take both of them.

I was watching part of Hell's Kitchen last night near the end. A man and a woman were the two likely to be kicked off the show. The man was kicked off and he gave a little speech saying the woman was likely kept on for crying and that he wouldn't have any dignity if he did the same thing.

5:02 PM, April 16, 2008  
Blogger Michael Lee said...

Forget the "men as idiots" meme. The new thing in commercials is "women are stupid bitches--and you go girl!"

For example, almost all of those Charles Schwab cartoon ads. Like the woman at the ATM, or the divorced women on the ski lift.

The Comcast ad where the guy is lip syncing Billy Idol's Rebel Yell telling his friend how hot his wife is and she comes up and says just shut up and put the kids in the minivan.

There's another investment commercial where the retired guy is trying to explain some Fidelity fund and how it's going to keep them going in retirement and his wife is saying she's so bored and she doesn't care and rolling her eyes and acting like a complete Jewish American Princess except she looks like a frog. At the end of this commercial, he does roll his eyes at how stupid she is, so maybe this counts as a backlash ad.

If you start paying attention, you'll see that for every hapless male oaf in an ad these days, there is now a mean, stupid bitch. This isn't the long-suffering housewife we're used to in commercials, but a mean, stupid bitch that he's saddled with/chained to.

Even more frequently these days, the mean, stupid bitch doesn't bother to have a male oaf as her foil. She's just out there on her own now, her and her girlfriends, being mean and stupid. (The Schwab ads are a great example--I moved my accounts, BTW, and any man who still does business with Schwab is a race traitor.)

I really don't get this trend, given that we've been told for so long that ads are intended to attract women. Does this mean that Madison Avenue thinks that American women aspire to be clueless bitches?

I'm not saying Madison Avenue is wrong. More and more I less and less like women. Ladies, and I use that term loosely, you're pushing it.

8:35 AM, April 20, 2008  
Blogger jms said...

The latest Sonic ad where the male bashing woman puts her husband down for his inability to impress her father until he gets a degree from a university her father recognizes...and gets a better truly one of the lowest male bashing Sonic ads this ad agency has come up with. In the past, I thought the ribbing this marital couple did with each other was occasionally humorous. But this latest ad where the wife poo-poos not just her husband's degree but his job as well -- truly does take men down to nothing more than a wallet. So many women get mad at men for being shy of "commitment". Can you imagine being married to a woman like this who did nothing but put you down all the time, treated you like an idiot, and laughed for your not having the guts to divorce her because she would take all your money anyway? Might there be a reason why men are less inclined to want to marry in America when it is so fun for women to pull this trick on them, luring them in and then becoming their ball and chain until they are willing to divorce and most likely give away their life savings to her and her attorneys, just to regain happiness and freedom again from such abuse?

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