The ad that takes us back at least 20 years
Imagine this new TV advertisement: A gorgeous, shapely young woman is mowing the lawn in the golden summer sunshine. She’s admired by some eager young men who roll a can of Diet Coke down the hill towards her. She stops mowing, and starts drinking the fizzy soft drink.
She gets some of it on her t-shirt so she removes it, revealing a toned midrift and huge rack enclosed in a sexy red bra. She keeps mowing with her top off in soft-focus slow-motion, closely watched by the guys. The soundtrack, of course, is Etta James’ “I just want to make love to you”.
I’ll bet there would be a huge outcry if any soft drink maker dared to make an ad like that these days.
So why does no one care when this exact ad is made starring a muscle-clad man and his tanned, six-pack torso being admired by a gaggle of perving women?
In fact, rather than slam it, writers across the globe have been heralding the return of the “Diet Coke hunk”.
It just goes to show the shameful double standard in relation to sexist advertising.
I am definitely a feminist, and love to attack a sexist stereotype as much as the next gal. But I am surprised that so few men – or women – speak up when a man is portrayed as a sex object.
Given that Diet Coke is particularly marketed towards women, it’s no surprise that their TV commercials have featured spunky guys being ogled by women for nearly twenty years now.
Most famous was the series of TV commercials set in offices from 1994 onwards showing a muscular window cleaner taking his top off and drinking Diet Coke. He was admired by throngs of female office workers crowding into a nearby office for their “11.30 appointment”.
But I would have thought that perhaps we would have become a little more sophisticated than this by 2013.
Certainly, our antenna for ads deemed to be sexist towards females has been finely tuned over decades.
Let’s face it, in the early days there was much to attack. This was back when ovens were billed as “wife-savers”, when kitchen appliances were “a woman’s best friend” and when face creams were sold using slogans such as “Husbands stay lovers … when wives guard against drying, lifeless middle-aged skin”.
Over the years women have objected to thousands of ads for Windsor Smith, Virgin planes, Fiat cars, Strongbow Cider, Hungry Jacks burgers, and Toyota cars.
There are still some breathtakingly bad sexist ads demeaning women out there: check out some of the more awful Superbowl ads shown in the US last week. However, we have definitely come a long way, baby.
But the same does not seem to have happened in relation to men.
The new Diet Coke hunk – which has been universally praised by a world-wide girls’ club of giggling admirers – takes us right back to where we were nearly 20 years ago.
In one write-up on the Huffington Post website, a feminist writer raves against the latest diet coke “Get Glam” ads “infantalising” and “sexualizing” women, while completely failing to mention the sexism of the ad featuring the topless lawnmower man. In fact, the very same web page has a live link to the ad with the caption: “Brace yourself ladies (and gentleman) that Diet Coke ad is back”.
According to some breathless analysts, the women in the ad are even described as “clever” for managing to roll the can of drink down the hill to reach the rippling hunk.
Oh, give me a break.
It goes to show that when a man takes off his top, it’s sexy. But when a woman does the same, it’s sexist.
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