May is – next to March – one of testing months. On the occasion of Mother's Day brands prepare campaigns addressed to mothers, using images of women performing this role.
Everybody in the trade remembers an advertisement of Megaron (plaster finish coat). Although the name may not ring a bell, a description attached to a lying woman ('fondle, fondle, fondle')1 will bring back the memory of one of the worst outdoor advertisements of the recent years, that's for sure. Nowadays, much is written about the role women play in advertising, opposition against their objectification, #fempowerment, #womenomics and speeches given by stars who fight the commercial patriarchy. Considering they’ve gained – at least to a certain extent – an access to education and power, it’s not so easy to use the image of women as mute products anymore.
It's getting better and better in terms of quantity and quality – the parity indices go up (women in advertising are less and less limited to butts and boobs, instead perform active, self-determined roles). So does the manner of presentation of female entities, which is more and more nuanced, inclusive and – simply – more interesting (not only white young mothers). May is, however, still one of testing months. On the occasion of Mother's Day brands prepare campaigns addressed to mothers, using images of women performing this role.
Our ideas for advertising campaigns are usually limited to new visual creations, additional tabs or competitions in which we can win gifts for our moms. Mothers appearing in our (or polonised) advertisements are usually washing, taking care over children, cleaning or cooking. Alternatively – as in a new social media campaign of Biedronka – female employees present themselves using names of their children. The latter is, however, rather risky, since it suggests the identity of women being completely appropriated by their maternity. I am a mother, period – simple as that. Meanwhile, the #worldstoughestjob (a campaign of Mullen Lowe and American Greetings 2015) has so many dimensions that it's almost impossible not to scream out loud a bunch of clichés about the struggle with stereotypes. Yet it’s always better to act than to talk, so it’s worth juxtaposing stereotypical performances with those, somehow, rising above the conventions. Instead of the Vacuuming Polish Mother recently served by the Ministry of National Education in a spot encouraging children (edit: probably boys) to programming (a Good School cycle), we should rather appreciate the Swearing Mother (Kraft 2017), the Technological Mother (Samsung 2015) or even the Controversial Toxic Mother (Skittles 2017).
How to create non-stereotypical messages about mothers for mothers? As obvious as it may sound, it’s enough to learn from our own mistakes! In the last season of 'Girls' Hannah Horvath is far from being totally caught up in the rapture of motherhood and has moments in which she's more than eager to give up the ship and run to the end of the world from a milk-sucking crewman. Polish 'Glamour' would, of course, photoshop her cellulite – just to improve the image and possibly produce a second Beyoncé. So, instead of marketing – as a product – another mother with a rag, mop or even a microfibre cloth, we should consider re-humanising the mother. We should approach the issue with a sense of humour as in Samsung's spot, or unconventionally – like Kraft did – depicting several faces and roles at once. Even Skittles – especially at the time a new Alien movie hits the box office – gives a more multidimensional image than many television advertisements, whose action takes place in the kitchen. The goal isn't to be excessively daring; it's enough to gently pat an ossified vision of the target 'woman-mother' whom we have in our heads.
1 A word play on the imperative form of verb ‘fondle’ and ‘plaster’, both translated into Polish as ‘gładź’.