So far on this blog, I have purposely avoided giving too much oxygen to any over-the-top or blatantly sexist campaigns.
No sport in easy pickings, eh? But, alas, my eyes can only roll so many times before I wind up permanently disfigured, so I’ve made the call. The Bechdel bell tolls for all of us eventually, UltraTune. And today it tolls for thee.
If you’re at all familiar with their particular oeuvre of advertising, you’ll be well aware that the UltraTune brand platform is built on misogyny and sexism. Way harsh, Tai? Well, let’s consider Exhibit A: here’s their “brand ambassadors” the Rubber Girls (seriously), pictured here just hanging with convicted rapist and wife beater, Mike Tyson:
Here is Mike Tyson practising his version of the Steve Erkel “I didn’t do it!” shrug.
The premise of all the UltraTune spots is, in every way, simple: dumb busty babes get themselves into an unfortunate situation, and UltraTune somehow saves the day. I use the word dumb without a shred of victim-blaming guilt, because the Rubber Girls are purposely portrayed as witless and mute morons who are too incompetent to be behind the wheel, perpetuating a problematic stereotype that reinforces gender inequality.
The girls also barely speak, aren’t named, and are often filmed in slow-mo as their chests are hosed down with water, or whatever else they can be demeaned with.
What I struggle with is the disconnect between UltraTune’s strategy here and its primary target audience. For an ad so clearly aimed at men, its incomprehensible when you learn that their main target market is women. Does marketing misogyny to middle-aged women work?
We’ve all become so dulled by stereotypes that most people don’t find them offensive anymore. I suppose my argument is that brands have a duty to represent the best in us, to use their power to shift perceptions responsibly, and change the gender narrative for the better. If only equality was as profitable as exploitation, UltraTune might reconsider their negative cultural impact and change their marketing strategy. Until profits drop – or until the Rubber Girls’ tits do – we’re likely to keep seeing them on our screens for a while yet.