Stereotypes smashed, one beer and one bar of soap at a time

Smashing stereotypes was the theme of Creativebrief’s Bite Live event this year, where speakers took a challenging stance to diversity and inclusion issues.

Beer advertising was once one of the biggest purveyor of stereotypes, as Jim Shearer, marketing director of Molson Coors, admitted: “They used to be a place where women were from another planet and men crawled to the pub after a hard day to take the piss out of each other.”

Times are changing though. The average age of Molson Coors’ board member has come down by 20 years in the last ten years, which partly explains why its marketing activities have moved on, embracing community rather than laddishness. Brands like Guinness – which has done some unorthodox but still pretty macho ads in the past – have led the way in smashing conventions.

Alluding to gay marriage and women’s reproductive rights, Niall McKee, head of Guinness Stout Europe, Diageo, said: “In Ireland, politics have crumbled and culture has shifted; Guinness is shaped by that culture as well as shaping it.” AMV BBDO’s “Liberty Fields” ad about female Japanese rugby players, and the brand’s support of gay Welsh rugby legend Gareth Thomas, suggest that Guinness is reflecting the pace of change.

Sara Tate, CEO of TBWA, talked about the “fear factor” as one reason why some brands and agencies shy away from diversity, but Richard Miles, founder and CCO of diversity agency What’s Normal, said that even agencies who get it wrong are doing a service to the industry by pushing the debate forward.

Tate talked about her experience working with The Soap Co’s BECO brand, which employs an 80 per cent disabled team, saying that their campaign changed a lot between the original idea and the final execution because they spent so much time with different organisations and charities — and staff at BECO — taking new perspectives on board.

Miles, the only man on a seven-strong panel (another stereotype smashed right there) agreed. He said: “Asking for help is key. Reach out to organisations. If you are making anything featuring any community, just ask them.”

Even when you ‘re certain you’re doing it right, the going can still be tough. Lumen is a dating app for the over 50s which uses 50-plus models in its ads, but finds itself having to prove the age of its models (who don’t look like OAPs) by sending out copies of their driving licenses to doubting journalists.

Dr Rebecca Swift, global head of creative insights at Getty Images, talked about the problems of getting older people to work with them. “It’s difficult to get representation because senior people are not like millennials – they don’t need the money and they don’t want to be photographed.”

Sereena Abbassi, worldwide head of culture and inclusion at M&C Saatchi, spoke up for the importance of the younger generation in influencing boards. She said: “It takes a groundswell to mobilise the masses and create a web of influence that will motivate people at the top, and make senior leaders wake up.”

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