Commercials for him

I often find myself watching ESPN, not because I am a huge sports fan but because I live with one. The sports fan in my house especially enjoys turning on a particular sporting event or SportsCenter and then wandering off during the first commercial break. I could change the channel or turn off the tv (or get rid of it all together) but that is not the point. The point is that I often find myself on the couch watching commercials not meant for me.

How do I know these commercials are not for me… well this one tells me straight up that the product is “not for women“. How is Dr Pepper not for me? Personally, I don’t even like Dr Pepper but I didn’t know that it was a boys only product. I can understand the (false) assumption that fantasy football is just for boys, but soda? I guess I should stick with pink drinks (because non-pink 5-hour energy is for boys).

The other commercial that really bothers me is a series of commercials for DirecTV. In these commercials a man (husband and father) is antagonistic towards his wife for a variety of reasons such as her unwillingness to walk around naked for him. In another one, their children ask about the DVR and he provides a long answer about how Mom records too many shows and doesn’t do anything for him anymore (this one is not on YouTube). The wife is portrayed as a buzzkill and while DirecTV won’t get her to fulfill his fantasies it will at least resolve the problems with the DVR. Well if wives are problems then I am a problem. Do women (wives, mothers) not  make cable related decisions? We probably should since we are the ones recklessly recording way too many shows.

There has been a lot of reaction to the Bic “lady” pens and the Honda Fit She’s but I have not heard anyone complaining about Dr Pepper for men. In fact this is the only reaction I saw to the DirecTV ad and as the comment section shows most commenters think “you should lighten up”. I am not offended that the commercial appeals to men or by the premise that husbands want to see their wives naked. But I am offended that DirecTV and Dr Pepper don’t see me as a potential customer. So many products are unnecessarily gendered and what is the harm in that? We live in a gendered and capitalistic world. It is clear that there are spaces where people (men) feel women “don’t belong” such as online gamingthe geek world, and skeptic conventions but why is Dr Pepper consumption and Cable watching assumed to be a man’s space?  At least the Egyptian company Arab Dairy (makers of Panda cheese) knows how to make a funny commercial without making women feel unwelcome.

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4 thoughts on “Commercials for him

  1. My mom used to teach business classes at a local community college, and one thing she talked about in her classes was the targeting of commercials to certain demographics. So when we were sitting at home and commercials came on TV, somtimes she would call out “target market” and my sisters or I would say “women” or “old people” or something along those lines. This whole phenomenon is also very classed – a couple times recently I was watching some shows (they shall remain nameless since they aren’t really consistent with the image of myself I like to project on the front stage, and even referencing them in this anonymous manner would probably be enough for me to get tossed out of the cocktail hour at the next ASA’s) and was amazed by the consistency with which the commercials drove home an impression of the show’s target audience as working class or poor. The commercials were for things like payday lending, for-profit technical schools, some type of check card for people who don’t have bank accounts (which is a rip-off according to the internet), and so on. It’s the same logic that leads to cash-advance places being built in working class neighborhoods instead of well-heeled neighborhoods translated onto the television – AMC takes the role of the well-heeled neighborhood and channels like truTV and the CW are the working-class neighborhoods. Working-class viewers are bombarded with exposure to unscrupulous payday lenders and for-profit schools both in their physical environment and on the airwaves.

    • I am not arguing against targeting commercials, in fact I think it makes good sense. It just raises a red-flag in my mind when the targeting involves an explicit (or merely overt) exclusion of large swaths of the population. It is like how Obama used micro-targeting without making anyone feel left out. I assume you (Matthew) weren’t offended by the “I bark for Barrack” campaign, even though Charlie and I loved it! But Romney’s attempt at micro-targeting backfired because his targeting of wealthy white men offended approximately 47% of the population.

      Similarly, payday lenders aren’t seeking my business because I probably won’t use their services but at the same time they aren’t explicitly excluding me and Audi isn’t trying to sell cars during Judge Judy yet it doesn’t run anti-working class ads. I think the class element is interesting because while it is easy/”funny” to make overt gender distinctions for products I think it would be really unacceptable to make similar race/class distinctions. It would most certainly be in poor taste.

      • I think what you’re trying to get at Anne is that the “man” ads that you were struck by actively denigrated women. It’s not just that the ads are “for men only” or even that they’re “not for women” in a playful and fun way (like this Honda Odyssey commercial http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYQ-jRHeCW0), and thus exclusionary, but that they’re defining masculinity – or being “just for men” as something that necessitates putting women down.

  2. Yes! Don’t denigrate the non-target group. But I still think it is weird that Dr Pepper is not for women. They are denigrating so much as boldly excluding. Man Dr Pepper seems to be the male equivalent of Lady Pens but I don’t see much internet commotion about it. If they made pink Lady Dr Pepper would people be upset? With a special can that could fit in delicate lady hands? –Also that minivan commercial is kinda awesome.

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