I’ve always passively consumed retail furniture ads – watching them but not really hearing what they have to say. Not that they require deep concentration: there’s usually a slowly rotating camera pan around a couch or chair, peppy and/or jazzy Muzak playing, and more often than not, a gorgeous gal reclining on the sofa. But in the interests of the Campaign Bechdel project, I’ve been trying not to glaze over while they appear on screen but rather, reeeally try to watch them. And unfortunately, all I see? Is a glimpse into an outdated and sexist past era.
Nick Scali is an Australian furniture brand that attempts to equate its stylish, sexy female couch models with its alleged “European-styled” furniture credentials. Human spokespeople have long been used as the embodiment of inanimate objects, but men are much less commonly used as sexualised mannequins in advertising, in comparison to women. In every iteration of Nick Scali’s long-running retail work, a leggy lady dressed more appropriately for da club than for the couch saunters over in slow motion and eases back into the leather as though it were an MDMA-laced cloud. Their spiky stilettos rest dangerously close to extended leather foot rests, just the kind of ten-inch strappy heels we all wear on a Tuesday night as we binge-watch “Killing Eve”. And in every iteration of their ads, the women never speak, never look at camera with purpose or power or agency, and never ever wear pants.
So while Nick Scali may have created a recognisable and long-running brand asset in their use of reclining sexay laydees on their furniture, it’s hardly cutting through or fresh. The use of passive, objectified, silent women and just the tone overall is deeply archaic and stale – all of which seems counter-intuitive for a furniture brand which needs to drive sales through the perception of delivering the latest in guaranteed style. Our Campaign Bechdel recommendation to Nick Scali: it’s time for a brand refresh, stat.