News & Views

Issue 55 / out now

by Patrick Jeffrey

One of our editorial team’s most-prized values is optimism.

At Contagious, we try not to get over-excited by emerging technologies; we try not to lose perspective when we cover a hyped startup; we try not to jump on bandwagons. But we do always push ourselves to see the potential in these shiny new things.

Similarly, when adland is confronted head-on by uncomfortable or disturbing truths, we challenge ourselves to remain optimistic; to find and profile the people and brands that are pioneering positive change.

Contagious 55 is a perfect example of this. Our industry, and indeed the wider business world, is finally facing up to the entrenched reality of extreme gender inequality. ‘Toxic masculinity’ has become an all-too common phrase, the #MeToo movement has gathered pace, and the daily news agenda is characterised by troubling stories and damning reports.

It’s easy, of course, to point out what’s wrong. But – in the true spirit of optimism – we’ve made it our mission to champion the initiatives that are creating change.

That’s why we’ve partnered with LADbible Group to commission exclusive research on young people’s attitudes towards stereotyping in advertising.

Our report sheds light on the expectations and beliefs of 2,000 respondents, aged between 14 and 40. It highlights the nuances in how Gen X and EDITORIAL Gen Z interpret terms such as ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’, and how perceptions differ between generations. Most importantly, our analysis also reveals the steps that brands must take to stamp out sexist stereotyping within their own advertising.

Bumble, the dating app that stands for empowering women, is already actively dismantling these stereotypes. Billboards with phrases such as ‘Be the CEO your parents always wanted you to marry’ have helped build the brand’s reputation as a champion of equality. We interview the leadership team at the startup and explore how it’s moving beyond dating and into new verticals. ‘As we’ve grown, one thing hasn’t changed,’ says Bumble CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd. ‘Women always make the first move.

And, finally, from dating to dope… Since the legalisation of recreational cannabis in parts of the US, weed has become one of the fastest-growing industries on the planet. We investigate how it’s shedding its ‘stoner’ image by championing values that are vital to today’s customers: provenance, sustainability, transparency and gender equality.

There is, of course, a long way to go before we have an equal society. But advertisers – experts in the art of changing attitudes and influencing behaviour – can play a crucial role in accelerating this change. And that, I believe, is cause for optimism.

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