Clichés are everywhere in Channel 4’s £1m diversity winner, from the RAF and Engine

The Royal Air Force and Engine won this year’s Channel 4’s Diversity in Advertising award with an ad that sends up stereotypes and challenges women to join the RAF.

The soundtrack is ridden with women’s advertising clichés, set against real footage of RAF women in action.

“With my busy life, I don’t have time to slow down,” a voiceover says as a woman hangs out of a helicopter travelling at speed. During a parade, one woman is stressing, “I can’t believe we turned up wearing the same thing.” Another woman says, “All day protection, now with wings, so I can handle anything,” but she is talking about flying military aircraft, not sanitary pads.

The idea came from Channel 4’s new diversity study, which found that the main problem with adverts featuring women is the roles they play, not the level of representation.

Engine and the RAF beat Cadbury Milk Tray, eBay and Flybe, who also made the shortlist, to win £1 million of free airtime on Channel 4.

Sara Dunlop, who directed the ad, said: “This campaign was so satisfying to be involved with. By calling out the clichés and celebrating the incredible real women that work in the RAF, it also became my own personal stand against all the female advertising out there that continues to patronise its audience.”

Channel 4’s head of agency and client Sales, Matt Salmon, said: “Given our research shows that women are typically shoehorned into derogatory or stereotypical roles, campaigns such as this are long overdue.”

Louise Hayward, client managing director, Engine, said: “Gender parity will lead to a more effective RAF, and I’m incredibly proud to contribute to achieving that, while simultaneously challenging the often lazy portrayal of women in advertising.”

The award has a history of inspiring good ads that genuinely change perceptions. AMV BBDO’s 2016 winner for Maltesers highlighted the disability agenda and has impacted the brand’s advertising ever since. Last year adam&eve/DDB’s #GetTheInsideOut for Lloyds Bank opened up about mental health, and not a horse in sight.

Sexism and the RAF is a more obvious fit, and the ad looks pretty low budget but it makes a good point and does it with humour and style.

MAA creative scale: 7

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About Emma Hall

Emma Hall
Emma Hall is the former London Editor of Ad Age, where she covered European marketing advertising, digital and media stories. She has written for newspapers including the Financial Times, The Guardian, The Times and the Telegraph, and was previously a section editor at Campaign. Emma started her career in New York as a researcher for a biography of Keith Richards.