As we’ve discussed here on About-Face.org, car companies are not known for their progressive, non-sexist advertising. But the new Australia Kia advertisement breaks the mold, presenting two separate ads (one starring a woman and one starring a man) that offer alternative perspectives on stereotypical gender roles.
The “Woman of Now” ad features a woman in business clothing walking through the city streets, spouting a spoken-word George-Carlin-style stream of consciousness into the camera.
She lists seemingly incongruous characteristics of herself, for instance: “I climb the corporate ladder, I’ve got a ladder in my stockings,” and “I’m digitally in touch but not retouched.”
The “Man of Now” ad features a man in smart-casual clothing with a messenger bag, also walking through the city streets: “I push the envelope, push the button, push a pram.” (For American readers, a “pram” is a baby stroller.)
Both ads end with the man or woman getting into their respective Kia cars and driving away, with the tagline “for the woman of now”/”for the man of now.”
These ads paint refreshingly rounded portraits of modern men and women. Rather than appearing as a sex symbol, the woman appears as a real, opinionated person, balancing work and the rest of life without looking overtly sexy.
Likewise, the man does not embody the typical masculine role of a beefy car-loving “bloke.” Instead, he is articulate, sensitive, and a family man.
Does this ad show that Kia is paying attention to its target demographic? Does it reflect a shifting paradigm of the representation of feminine and masculine roles in ads? Does it show a softer side to car advertising, one that isn’t blatantly relying on sex to sell its product?
Tessa Needham finished her PhD in Performing Arts at the University of Western Sydney (Australia) in 2008. Her thesis explored the potential of performance to provoke change, and part of her research was Bodily, a solo theatrical performance about body image. She loves technology and the creative arts, and is passionate about the different cultural forces affecting the body image of girls and women. She teaches computers and does freelance creative work: www.tessaneedham.com.