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The representation of Mothers in advertising

For mother’s day I thought I’d write about how the representation of mothers has changed in advertising. It’s a very interesting topic and I’ll cover how the representation of women has changed in another article but for now, I want to write about mothers specifically. So what has been the change? Let’s start where I usually start, the ‘50s and ‘60s. Most women were full-time housewives with society thinking that for them, their family should come first and their own goals/ambitions should not really come at all. In ads they’re almost all white, middle/upper class, skinny and doting. Let’s face it, nobody is this simple, that’s the problem.  They’re cliché, one dimensional but also harmful, a mother back then could have seen this ad and may have felt bad that they aren’t this idealistic mother. Nobody’s perfect and we all have our shortcomings. That’s what they fail to mention, they’re trying to sell through false promises and a good ad should never have to do that. Ah the 1980’s, Consumerism was in, Greed was good and it was a great time to be in advertising, or so I’ve been told. A lot had changed from the ’60s but some things had not. When doing my research I actually couldn’t find too many ads directed at mothers but the one I did find that seems very well known, it’s the Oxo Lynda Bellingham ad from 1983. In this ad a mother brings her family together through a dinner made with Oxo, it does a lot of good things like make the mother and family more realistic in the way they look and talk to one another. It’s less aspirational and more relatable. The only place where I think it slips up is it still presents the mother as taking care of her family and home as her only role. However, one print ad I saw that I really liked was this ad Johnson and Johnson ad. I think it’s more diverse than past ads while keeping its authenticity. The 2000s really weren’t too long ago now, well we’re still in them but I’m talking specifically about the early 2000s. When I was doing my research I found something interesting which is whatever I searched for I couldn’t find many examples. I’m sure they exist but I couldn’t find any, it’s interesting as maybe it signifies a social shift in advertising? Moving away from targeting a specific demographic and targeting a broader and more diverse audience. Whether this is true or not I don’t know, it’s just a thought, and whether you think ads should be specific or broad is a topic for another time. Finally, we have recent mothers in ads, and what do they look like? Well, more like real mothers to be honest. The ones that have stuck in my mind have been P&G’s legendary Olympic ads celebrating the mothers of Olympians and the World’s Toughest Job campaign from Cardstore. The reason I love the P&G ads is because of the realistic depiction that being a mother isn’t always easy or glamorous as it was suggested in the ’50s/’60s Another reason is it shows just how much of an impact our mothers have on our lives all the way from childhood to adulthood, deep right? A concept that I don’t think could have or would have been explored in previous decades. The Cardstore ad is along the same lines where it talks about the truth of being a mother and really puts all their hard work in perspective. In conclusion, I think the shift in mothers’ representation has been looking at them honestly, showing that it’s not always easy or glamorous, but that it’s worth it. I think this honesty is spreading throughout advertising and it’s truly great to see. Despite the troubling times we currently find ourselves in, I’m still optimistic about what the future will bring, everyone stay safe, stay positive, and I hope you enjoy mother’s day. Writer – Travis Usher – Creative Manager @ Ekstasy

What are Anti-Ads?

Interesting phrase right? It seems like two words that should never go together, but they do. Like getting a dish that’s the perfect combination of sweet and sour. What brought the idea to mind and made me want to write about it was the latest burger king ad, which really made me think. I love the ad but I wonder how many Whoppers it’s going to sell? I’m personally not a fan of their burgers but I want to buy one now just to say well done on the campaign! It’s creative, honest and brave, but we’ll have to see how the results turn out. So what’s the idea behind ‘anti-advertising’? Well, it’s essentially reverse psychology and honesty weaved into an ad. If someone says “Don’t buy this product, this product isn’t for you” it’s human to want to buy the product. Or if a brand is honest with you in a comedic way you’re more inclined to trust and buy from them. Sometimes this is done very well, and sometimes not so much. There has to be a reason behind its use, otherwise, an ad could come across as just sounding arrogant. So without any further introduction let’s look at some examples of ‘Anti-ads’ that got it right and some that got it wrong. The original ‘Anti-ad’ was the series of VW Beetle ads that came out in the late 1950’s. “Think small”, “Lemon” and several more, they’re iconic have stood the test of time being spoken about 60 years later. Why were they so good? Because they were innovative, witty and most of all brave. Just imagine getting the brief of selling an ugly German car to the American population in the 50’s and 60’s, that’s no easy task. So they decided to go with what the audience was already thinking and addressed it with self-deprecating humor. This had the effect of showing benefits like “Small insurance” “Small repair bills”. Showing how the car hadn’t changed in years showed you wouldn’t be afraid about having the latest model. The ads were genius and paved the road for more to come. Next is a trend that’s become popular not only in advertising but media in general, breaking the fourth wall and being self-referential. This ad for BrewDog literally says it’s an ad and shows their product, nothing else. I know that for me this was a breath of fresh air, an ad that wasn’t trying to sell any lifestyle, health benefits, or social message but just wanted me to know this was an ad and it was for them. I loved it, it reminded me of an Oasis ad I saw when I was younger which just said “Your favorite celebrity would drink Oasis if we paid them” I literally bought an Oasis because of that ad, I thought it was funny. The honesty of some ‘Anti-ads’ is just funny and refreshing to see, and it makes people more inclined to buy your product. Another ‘Anti-ad’ which has a tagline which at first confuses you, then makes sense is the campaign for Hinge, “Designed to be deleted”. At first, this seems odd, what app is designed to be deleted? Then you realize, a dating app that wants you to find someone special. I’m no expert on relationships but what I do know is if you’re in one it’s best not to have a dating app on your phone. It’s a great riddle of a tagline and personifying the app in the video was a clever choice. Now one that didn’t get it right, this was a famously poor received ad from Protein World asking the simple question, “Are you beach body ready?” with a stereotypically and unrealistic depiction of a beach body standing next to their weight loss collection. If this ad had been satirical it could have been great, but it feels like there’s no irony to this ad at all. The really sad thing, along with the misogyny, is the fact this ad actually increased their sales dramatically. Whether that makes it a good ad or a bad ad is up for you to decide. Another that didn’t hit the mark for me but still came closer than protein world was Patagonia’s “Don’t buy this jacket” print ad. The reason I’m not a fan of this ad was the fact that it uses reverse psychology so blatantly, and while I’m sure that it will hook the audience’s attention I think they could have been more creative in the way they did it. I’ll say however that this one is really just a matter of opinion, if someone else liked it I could understand why. Now one last self-referential ad that I think worked well, Oatly milk’s recent OOH campaign. While some of them I think are a little condescending on the whole I think they walk the line while keeping their humor. They definitely made me stop and read them as well as remember them. I now associate the ad with the milk when I see it in the shops and think that’s the Milk from those ads. All of this is just my opinion, let me know what you think of these ads, some people love them, others hate them. I think the point of a lot of these ‘Anti-ads’ is they create a sense of brand identity and they’re memorable. Just look at the Beetle campaign that came out over 60 years ago, people are still talking about it. I still remember that Oasis ad from years ago, because I thought it was witty and true. A brand poking fun at themselves is one of the strongest things it can do, it humanizes them in the eyes of the consumer. Writer – Travis Usher – Creative Manager @ Ekstasy

Why use film in 2020?

I never intended for this to be an article, it was just a question I was thinking about. It seems using film cameras is becoming more popular, and why? Is it just for hipsters and Tarantino or is there a reason to use it? For starters film requires more time, effort and money to capture a moment than a camera that’s digital…not to mention most phones these days have pretty great cameras themselves. I have a theory to answer this question and that’s because of the charm film has. The care I think this comes from several factors, the first being the fact when you know you have a certain amount of film you’re a lot more careful with what you shoot. You really have to take time and  think about what you’re shooting as you do it. I think this refines and distills what ends up in the frame. The practice Not to mention it takes a lot of practice shooting on film, I remember the first time I tried film photography, I used the whole reel, thinking I’d captured some at least a few decent photos, but low and behold, I arrived at the developers and was told that my finger had slipped on the release button meaning the whole reel had been wasted. While this was a pain in the neck at the time I’ve never pushed the release button accidentally again. The same goes for all the aspects of film, I’ve messed up lighting and corrected it, I’ve messed up framing and corrected it. Although this can also apply to shooting digitally there’s a lot more that can go wrong using film. The story   It’s all well and good what film can teach you but what does it provide to the story? Well, a few things in my opinion, one of them being a real sense of nostalgia, you can usually tell when something’s been shot on film due to the slight grainy texture and the colours that seem so much more interesting that the ones captured digitally. When I see modern films and have a feeling they’ve been shot on film I feel more invested, asking myself why the director has done this? For instance Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, well it’s set in 1969 so film helps take the audience to that period. The same can be said for Mid90s, though digital cameras were around at this time the film still has the effect of taking the audience back in time. In advertising Now what about the use of film in advertising, strange right? I wondered as I wrote this how many modern ads chose to use film and quite a few surprisingly. The surprise being fim is harder to use and when one has deadlines, clients to please and specific points to hit, it might seem like an unnecessary extra step. That being said the ads do look great and there’s a reason behind the madness. It’s the same reason as the movies, to transport the audience to another time, look at this mini cooper ad which I absolutely love, you’re transported back to this moment in history and it almost feels like you can smell the petrol and burning rubber. Another ad to use this technique is this ad for Audible, I think they chose to use film to make it more personal, almost like it’s raw and unpolished and we’re genuinely walking and listening to this man speak. In this use I don’t think they’re trying to make you time travel but rather you’re connected to a character you just met. In conclusion, I really do have a love/hate relationship with film. It can be frustrating and challenging at times to use but as a filmmaker if you’re not challenging yourself then you’re doing something wrong. Also, when you finally get that shot, that image, that moment you were hoping for it feels amazing. Even in 2020 when you can make movies on your phone and get good cameras for a few hundred pounds, I think film still has its time and its place. I think it always will. Writer – Travis Usher – Creative Manager @ Ekstasy

Top 11 Valentine's day ads

Ahh it’s that time of year again everybody, can you feel it? Overpriced bouquets of roses being bought, people are frantically trying to get a reservation at any restaurant they can and engagement ring sales are probably booming. For those of us who are single they’re buying red wine and romantic comedies for the big night, or is that just me? Anyways, enough with the cynicism, I’m just going to get to the point. Like most holidays brands create ads to coincide with them, which can lend a lot to the brand and the ad. So without any further introduction here are my top 11 Valentine’s day ads, in no particular order. We’re going to start with probably one the best companies to produce V day ads which is Durex, I’m not going to go into the reasons as to why they’re perfectly suited to make these ads. In this one we see a field of roses and just as you’re about to mentally check out as it looks like any other traditional ad you see a couple, riding lawn mowers, cutting through the roses. It’s a pretty hilarious image and comes with a great tagline. “Cut the cliche this Valentine’s” Well played Durex, well played. Next we have Virgin trains. For this ad they’ve gone for a realistic approach instead of actors. Now this ad is on the list for two reasons, one how they managed to tie in their brand to the creative and do it as well as they did, and two, because it’s just sweet. Now whether they’re a real couple or actor I won’t think about as I want them to be real. Usually I’m not a massive fan of using animals in ads if they’re just there to be cute and try to get views. I feel like this is just doing a disservice to the creative, however, if the animal is a part of the creative or the story then I’m all for it, why not put two dogs in if it serves the story. While that’s what sainsburys did with this cute, funny ad. This is a type of ad that i’ll admit I’m a sucker for, talking to camera (breaking fourth wall style) with a funny, witty script. The video was produced to promote a third wheel deal for the big day. I must say one of the reasons I like this style is because it can be produced without spending a tonne of money and how good the ad really depends on how well the script is written. I think this one did a very nice job. This was one I’ll admit I hadn’t seen until i was actually doing research for this article, and it’s great. Such a clever idea and really captured me, I felt invested in these people and this story right from the start (whether they’re actors or not). The the twist comes, they’re not in completely different places but actually 1 stop away, literally. It’s hard enough writing a twist for a feature film so to have a twist in a 2 minute ad is pretty cool. Now for another ad I hadn’t seen before, made by Netflix India we see a couple’s relationship, start, develop, get rocky and come back. This pretty much feels like it could be its own netflix original series, it’s got a great, quirky style which lends itself to this, it also references Netflix shows in a realistic way, very meta. I like this ad, it’s got charm. While this may not necessarily be a Valentine’s day ad I think it can work as one. The video was produced to show the subtle gender stereotypes when ordering drinks and how Heineken wants to be for everyone, not just men. I think that’s a pretty nice, not to mention relatable, topic for an ad, even if it’s not exclusively for Valentines Day. Moonpig, Valentine’s day is probably one of their biggest days of the year, so it makes sense to have kick-ass Valentine’s day ad. This is their one last year and it honestly had me laughing, the whole concept revolves around whether the people being interviewed are givers or receivers, I mean the statement makes sense for a company who delivers cards, gifts and flowers but the mind does wonder. It pays on this double entendre as the ad goes on until you finally get the final reveal and a, not so subtle, wink to camera. Take a simple, fun idea. Produce and market it well. Nine out of ten times you’ll have a fantastic ad. In 2017 Tinder ran a campaign for their users to tweet their ideal Valentine’s day in emojis and Tinder would make the best ones become reality. They then produced a series of bite-sized videos demonstrating the concept, maybe just a little too literally. This isn’t an ad but is rather a parody of Valentine’s ads poking fun at the cliches often included as well as the cliches of the holiday in general. While not my favourite SNL sketch, it did make me laugh as I looked through ad after ad that seems to be identical, I thought why not include it. It’s also a pretty good instructional video of what not to do on V day. A lot of the ads on this list have been funny, or charming, but this one really makes you think. The idea behind it is great and effective. It’s a little gift shop that looks on the surface like its full of cute Valentines day gifts but when one looks closer they all have a deeper message, I’ll let you be the judge. Hopefully this list wasn’t too painful to read through and you saw a couple of ads you liked that got you inspired. Despite my cynicism I do actually like the holiday even if it’s just getting a take away and watching a movie, grand gestures and ‘Say anything’ type moments are great and all but life’s not a movie. Sometimes the best nights are the nights spent in, hope everyone has a fantastic day and you all get the love you deserve. My goodness that ending was a cringe-inducing ending. Just kidding. Writer – Travis Usher – Creative Manager @ Ekstasy
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