Gray Matters: women in advertising, the return of creativity, advertising on YouTube and Capital Gains Tax

Women in advertising

There were a couple of interesting articles in the weekend magazines last Saturday and Sunday – Stuff’s ‘Sunday’ in Sunday Star-Times and the Weekend Herald‘s Canvas magazine. The Sunday one, entitled ‘What Women Want’ was really an advertorial for female-owned and operated creative agency Double Denim, while the Canvas piece, ‘The (non) Changing Face of Advertising’, was an interesting look back at some of our best loved ads of the past several decades.

Interestingly both made points about the maleness of New Zealand advertising. Monday’s New Zealand Herald also had a column by Damien Venuto about Hallensteins’ new ad featuring a woman in a man’s suit. “We decided to work with Laura as she embodies the values that Hallenstein Brothers represents, general manager, Glen Hunter, is quoted as saying about the “model and influencer” Laura Evans.

 “The new Hallenstein Brothers campaign gives a nod to the women who also wear its clothing.” Some may wonder how many female customers Hallenstein Brothers have, who are buying suits for themselves, but that’s not the point. Having an attractive woman in the ad will certainly attract more male buyers who are the target market.

From Greg Bruce writing for Canvas – “Pick almost any legendary ad: Crumpy and Scotty, Mainland Cheese old guys,, BNZ’s You’re a New Zealander: men, men, men. Ghost Chips: two boys. Goldstein: a man. His boss: also, a man. The Crunchie train robbery: overwhelmingly men.”

Apart from the obvious heroine of the Crunchie ad being the old woman who has been quietly sitting knitting, pulling the emergency brake; what about ads like Rachel Hunter’s Tip Top Trumpet ad? The fact that some of our best-loved ads over the years feature men may signify a male bias, depending on your point of view, but awards are not the only measure.

I was part of the team that produced advertising for big-spending advertisers like Unilever and Nestle. Apart from Tux, these all featured women as the heroines of the ads. Yes, they may not have won many awards (although Dove did) but they performed exceptionally well in terms of supermarket sales, which is what the advertising is meant to do. But certainly, no more male bias than the Briscoe’s lady.

Which brings us to What Women Want, where Leah McFall talks to Double Denim owners, Angela Meyer and Anna Dean. “Unloved, unsafe, over-worked, patronised, and broke,” that’s what New Zealand women are, according to Double Denim’s research. This surprised me, as the women I know are loved, feel safe, aren’t broke and are certainly not patronised. Over-worked, yes, I’ll give you that.

“No other over creative agency has dug this deeply into the truth about New Zealand women.” Sorry, Angela and Anna, but here I must point you to some of the fine work done on behalf of multi-national accounts like Proctor & Gamble, Unilever and Nestle? The research into the habits and attitudes of New Zealand women would fill a suburban library. Talk to FCB, DDB, Ogilvy, JWT and many others, and you’ll see how much they might laugh at your contention.

Meyer is quoted as saying,” We know that women are intelligent, they are voracious readers, so why do we keep getting the same shit fed to us?” Well, Angela, I think you are going to have to ask the female editors of women’s magazines that question, rather than advertisers and marketers.

I can certainly see why Double Denim plan to focus on “social change” campaigns. In the serious world of advertising to women shoppers, the heavyweights already know what women want.

The return of creativity

Greg Bruce believes the future for video advertising is a depressing one and his article in Canvas, discussed above, ends with: “The decline of the mass broadcast ad gave us the opportunity to reflect on what we’ve done badly and do it better in the future but if anyone learned these lessons in the first place, the click-driven model of the attention economy might mean nobody ever cares.” Well, Forbes takes a much more optimistic view, suggesting that, Mobile Apps Are Driving A Resurgence In Advertising Creative.

Steve Wadsworth writes: “Creative lost some of its lustre throughout the 1970s as advertisers focused on product positioning … ad agencies got distracted by widespread consolidation in the 1980s … advertising became more about volume and efficiency than branding and creativity in the 1990s … and programmatic automation took over throughout the last decade.”

Wadsworth believes smartphone technologies have opened up new creative possibilities: “The rise of interactive videos, rich media, playables (ads you can play like a game) and other types of in-app ad formats have given rise to a whole new world of creative possibilities. When consumers can tap, swipe, pinch, flip and do a number of other manoeuvres with their screens to interact with ad content, there’s no end to the ways that advertisers can engage their audiences.”

So rather than seeing a decline in creativity, technological advances will take us to a whole new golden age of advertising. Whether it will be as good as the Mad Men days is doubtful though.

Stuff Up

Having read in Forbes about ads often having little connection to the content they run adjacent to, I was amused to see an ANZ ad, “Put Your Money to Work”, featuring two men, placed under the article in Sunday, “What Women Want.” Who stuffed up at Stuff, or is no one bothering to see whether ads have any relevance to the content they are placed next to?

This week Spark pulled all advertising from YouTube due to inappropriate kids’ content. This followed YouTube pulling advertising from anti-vaccination videos and AT&T in the United States saying it is removing all advertising until Google can protect its brand from offensive content.

And in Forbes this week, a headline read: “Big companies freezing their advertising on YouTube because of controversial comments”, highlighting some rather “hideous exchange of inappropriate sexual and predatory comments,” underneath videos of young girls. Meanwhile, Nestle told the BBC that the food giant decided to freeze its advertising on YouTube worldwide following claims they appeared next to offensive content.

Will advertisers ever learn from YouTube advertising scandals?” asked Patricio Robles at eConsultancy. “Major media buyers, in their pursuit of eyeballs, are still heavily dependent on platforms that might ultimately prove to be unpoliceable no matter how outraged they say they are every time scandal hits,” he says. “Instead of feigning shock every time the world is reminded of this, they’d be wise to invest time in better managing their campaigns to mitigate the inherent risks.”

What’s wrong with advertising?

“Is advertising obsolete?” asks Steven Rosenbaum , a contributor to  Media Insider on mediapost.com. “Old methods of broadcast advertising that demand attention are turning off audiences, millennials, and their younger friends,” he contends. “Why? Because audiences don’t want to be lectured, sold to, preached at, and overwhelmed. The old idea of dominating with brand voice doesn’t work in the world of conversational marketing and social engagement.  And platforms like Facebook and YouTube are finding that selling brand advertisers spots adjacent to the wild West of the open web doesn’t work, either.”

Meanwhile, the Havas Group’s Meaningful Brands report, featured on WARC, says, “brand content is falling massively short of consumer expectations, failing to engage and achieve cut through in a crowded media environment.”

The agency’s latest Meaningful Brands rankings again showed that brands are largely irrelevant in most consumers’ lives, as this found 77% of brands could disappear (up three points on the 2017 figure) and no-one would care.

Too many ads or too many repetitions of the same ad and such “bombardment” was recently highlighted by the UK’s Advertising Association as a major irritation for consumers.

With all the noise about what is wrong with advertising, it was interesting to read in UK’s Drum about the recent Advertising Association LEAD gathering, where Unilever CEO, Keith Weed, remarked that “advertising without trust is just noise”. This followed a report from thinktank Credos showing public trust in advertising reached a low of 25 percent in December, a figure that stood at 48 percent in 1992.

In October 2017 StopPress reported on some Kantar TNS’ latest Connected Life research, which concluded that, “Only one in five connected consumers in New Zealand trust global brands.”

Reflecting on the findings, Michael Nicholas, global lead of connected solutions at Kantar TNS said trust is fragile.

Reading through the Credos research, it is clear that one of the main issues is Intrusiveness, where many respondents described feeling ‘bombarded’ by advertising. Suddenly Harvey Norman comes to mind.


A man and a woman start an ad agency from scratch in 2021. The value then is zero. The pair build the agency to where it employs 50 people. They sell the agency to a multi-national for a price of $300,000. The Capital Gains Tax means they pay $100,000 to the government, which leaves them $200,000. The multi-national finds it has a client clash so offers to sell the agency it bought back to its original owners.

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