Is it my imagination or are blokes in ads getting fatter?

After an evening of watching TV I was amazed how many ads featured over weight men. Or at least plump ones.

Is this an honest approach to advertising that we are now showing the real average man in the street rather them the perfect looking man you get in perfume ads? And they don’t get any less glamerous than Johnny V in PG Tip ads.

Or maybe, as my girlfriend suggests, because the average creative is a beer drinking, burger eating, football watching bloke (85% of ad agency creative departments are blokes) they put themselves in the ad?

I remember pitching for Butlin’s a good few years ago and as part of the briefing they sent us to a camp for 24 hours. Was more like a POW camp – utter hell!

I snapped a picture of a typical Butlin’s family against a poster outside their rebooking centre. The poster showed a model 2+2 family, healthy, smiling, slim and fit. By contrast the Butlin’s family were massively overweight, and looked miserable. I wondered if maybe we should propose that they used images of real customer in their ads, after all if you are 22 stone white van driver and ugly why would you want to go to a place full of 12 stone models who drive Ferrari’s?

We were lucky and didn’t win it. Mind you, the client treated its agencies with so little respect it must have been hell for the winning agency, the main marketing director didn’t even turn up for the pitch. So no surprise when the winning agency did part company after just 6 months.

It’s somewhat ironic that while guys are getting the honest treatment, we are still portrayed as the bad guys in advertising for showing perfect women in ads and making young girls anorexic (according to the tabloids). Except that’s not actually true.

Excluding shallow American ads for vanity product and perfume ads, most UK ads show quite ordinary women because most ads are for everyday things like food, cleaning products and the rest. It’s actually the media that is fascinated with the perfect woman, and it the media who are the main influencers. Lets be honest, most ads get ignored.

Of course the reason we often write into our ads perfect looking people is based on a marketing myth no one challenges – that we all aspire to be like that. Well if that was even slightly true we’d all eat low calorie foods and live in gyms, but instead the masses do the opposite, proving that most tubby people are happy the way they are.

Which opens up a debate, just how many marketing rules that we follow are true?  Here’s one I can blow up – showing women sitting around a kitchen table talking about any product does not appeal to women (as proved in a Mumsnet ad survey). In fact it turns them off. But as long as you have beer drinking, burger eating, football watching blokes writing ads aimed at women, what do you expect?

I say, let’s have more honesty in TV ads, more plumpness, spots and greasy hair, bad dressing and poor taste. After all, it works for Eastenders.

  • Rob

    Interesting stats Neil – so if “TV watched on other devices” (ITV Player/ 4OD etc) only accounts for a small percentage of commercial broadcaster viewing (say 1.3% based on your figures – 3.5 mins divided by 3h 52m?), do you think agencies are over-estimating the percentage of AV spend that should be invested into VOD activity?

  • Neil Mortensen

    Hello Rob, I don’t think that.
    Advertising decisions should not be made solely on the basis of how much time
    is spent with something. If they were then linear TV advertising would receive
    far more investment than it currently does and search would receive much less.
    Of course I would advocate more investment into all forms of TV advertising
    including linear TV but that advice would be based on a lots of information, from
    audience insights, case studies and effectiveness data

  • Marco Ramos

    I think this is a great attempt to consolidate total viewing but I also think its quite misleading. TV viewing is increasing. If, depending on mode of consumption, people are either meshing or stacking, then surely lots of this video consumption beyond TV is actually being consumed at the same time as TV. Then it doesnt make sense to add it all up independantly. My head suggests it would be Xhrs spent uniquely consuming non-TV video content. Yhrs spend consuming TV content, and of this Zhrs is spent multi-tasking. If someone could help consolidate that information more easily that would be a massive help