‘Not for women’: Tongue-in-cheek or just plain sexist?

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Dr pepper

‘Not for women’: Tongue-in-cheek or just plain sexist?
Diet soda is ladylike but low-calorie soda is manly. It might seem like a subtle difference, but that’s the only thing that’s subtle about the blundering marketing campaign for Dr. Pepper Ten.

The advertising for Dr. Pepper Ten came as a surprise to me. I’m interested in the idea of mid-calorie soda. But rather than playing on the benefits of the drink or telling people why they might like it, it tells us in a camo-clad cry, “It’s not for women!”

That’s right; it’s a marketing campaign that actively looks to exclude half of its potential market.

The action film pastiche commercial​ is patronizing to both men and women in its reinforcement of what I had (perhaps naïvely) hoped were outdated stereotypes.

Now, this is shamelessly provocative marketing – and it may well work to boost sales for that very reason – but that doesn’t make it any less crass.

What is clear is that it’s a strategy that gets people talking – and asking questions. It deliberately picks at the edges of our comfort zones. Is it OK to be sexist if it’s done with irony? In a post-feminist world, is it OK to exclude women on the basis that women are no longer oppressed? And an even more pertinent question: Are women still oppressed?

Diet imagery isn’t macho

According to the company, Dr. Pepper Ten targets men aged 25-34 who “prefer the full-flavor experience of regular Dr Pepper but want a lower-calorie option without the diet imagery”.

I’m not a part of that demographic, but guess what, I’d like that too! It doesn’t matter how many pink-packaged ‘diet’ candy bars and soft drinks are marketed to me as a woman, I can’t believe that these are anything more than cynical ways to appeal to the image-obsessed stereotype of my gender – and I refuse to swallow them.

Provocation is a blunt instrument. It may prove effective for sales – perhaps as effective as sexually explicit marketing – but it is still crude and obtuse.

If any publicity is indeed good publicity, then I’m aware that I’ve just done my bit for Dr. Pepper, but I hope I’m wrong.

As a final thought, I’ve seen a few bloggers asking another provocative question: Would this ad be offensive if it involved a bunch of redneck clichés and proclaimed “it’s not for blacks”?

You bet it would.

Related topics: Markets

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14 comments

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You're not alone!

Posted by Valerie Lynn,

I found the ad to be shockingly offensive as well. It seemed as if they outright backslapped half of their potential market. What were they thinking?

It's fine to target market, but there's ways sufficiently less crude. Look at Axe and Old Spice.

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Grow Up

Posted by Peter Luker,

You can only find offence in this advert if you are going out of your way to find it!
I dont hear anyone saying the now iconic diet coke adverts are sexist, though they portray three women oogling at a musclebound lift repar man or window cleaners etc, it all but screams this product is for women only. In fact, most diet products are marketed towards women, this is sexism but simply responding to the market.
Unless women are refused sale of this product there is no sexism at all, just some good old fasioned fun!

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Oh?

Posted by post,

Since when did we start living in a post-feminist world? Really? I will be a post-feminist in a post-patriarchy.

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