Bic pens an apology


Bic pens had to apologise recently for this shocking South African advert that appeared, without irony, on a national women’s day there. It’s easy to live in a marketing bubble sometimes. I was at the Cannes Lions Festival of creativity this year, where campaigns empowering women and challenging stereotypes were debated and celebrated for making positive in-roads and rightly picked up many awards. Always Like A Girl campaign challenges an insult in daily use, Whisper’s Touch the Pickle (below) tackles period taboos and Sport England’s This Girl Can encourages girls to take part in sport, along with the new Glass Lion that awards campaigns that challenge gender stereotypes. It would be easy for the industry to move onto ‘the next big thing’ or hot topic for campaigns. But out in the real-world there is a still a very long way to go to challenge the sloppy, lazy stereotypical advertising that exists everywhere.

Last year I saw Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg at Cannes speak powerfully and persuasively to the marketing community about their responsibility to represent women in ways that don’t stereotype or play to cliches. Her book – Lean-In is a rallying cry to change the conversation from what women can’t do to what we can do. Sandberg has partnered with Getty images to start to tackle stereotypical images by removing many of the worst from their library – the businesswoman in a suit, with a baby under one arm and briefcase under another – and replacing them with a collection of over 2,500 images of female leadership in contemporary work and life.


There are also positive and gender-challenging images of men too. Definitely worth a look if you’re searching for images and an eye opener to something we probably ignore on a daily basis. Given that it’s estimated that it will take another 70 years to gain equality in pay for men and women, anything that tackles stereotypes and moves the debate forward is worth writing about. Just not with a Bic pen.

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