Madonna Badger Unveils New ‘#WomenNotObjects’ Video at Cannes

By Erik Oster Comment

Back in January, Manhattan-based agency Badger & Winters launched its “#WomenNotObjects” campaign, taking a stand against the long-running practice of sexual objectification in advertising. Today Badger & Winters chief creative officer Madonna Badger introduces a follow-up spot during a presentation at Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

“You know what sex sells?” she asked the crowd at her “Sex, Lies and Advertising” presentation (named in reference to a Gloria Steinem article). “Sex. It actually hurts our brands.”

In “What Our Kids See,” Badger & Winters interview children to get their reaction to sexually objectifying ads. Unsurprisingly, the kids are mostly pretty grossed out, with a few older girls already noticing how such ads make them feel worse about their own bodies. If such an approach makes you feel uncomfortable, that’s kind of the point. Kids already see ads like these all the time. Badger assured the crowed that before filming the video, “[We got] the permission of their mothers, which we don’t have everyday.”

While largely not unexpected, the children’s reactions highlight an aspect of sexual objectification those of us without children might overlook: their impact on young viewers. It’s somewhat disturbing to see how uncomfortable the ads make young viewers who see them as “Disgusting,” “Kind of messed up,” “Like gross to see” or call to “Cover your eyes, cover your eyes” and then contemplate how often they are exposed to such ads. Perhaps even more powerful is when one girl remarks about how an ad “makes me feel bad about my body,” or another claims an ad showing a muscular woman “makes me feel really scrawny.” One very to-the-point boy seems to sum up the group’s feelings with the line, “I don’t want to talk about it, it makes me feel uncomfortable,” while another girl succinctly suggests, “It doesn’t seem right.” In case the point isn’t already abundantly clear, the video ends with the line, “Maybe you don’t see it anymore, but they do.”

During her presentation, Badger admitted her own past complicity in the practice, saying, “I’ve been objectifying women for a long time. This is not about blame or shame or any of that stuff.”

“There’s lots of talk of gender equality,” Badger added, “but stopping objectivization has no gender, just as great strategy, respect and dignity have no gender.”

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