It's Not 1955 Anymore. Or Is It?


This famous David Ogilvy quote should feel antiquated by now. It’s sexist, it makes a pretty obvious point, it’s 62 years old. Yet, this June Cleaver era wisdom is still surprisingly relevant.

For one, Ogilvy was making the revolutionary point that those who make ads must have respect for their consumers as intelligent human beings. 85% of those making purchase decisions are women, and marketing to her effectively starts with, oh I don’t know, not treating her like an idiot. When it comes to moms specifically, this requires us to go beyond our basic assumptions as to who mom is. It’s more difficult, takes more time, and usually can’t be solved with a jingle. 

Yet we continue to have advertising that reduces us to simpletons — yammering airheads who go ecstatic over romcoms and mani-pedis:

There’s another pretty glaring reason this quote should feel dated — it makes the assumption that all ad-makers are men. And in 1955, most of them were. Even now, there are far more Don Drapers than Peggy Olsons. As a creative director, I’m part of an ad industry where creative leadership is only 11% female.

Why this matters brings me back to the first point. Making ads starts with, per Ogilvy, understanding your consumer. And having insight into her experiences is part of that understanding. Don’t confuse this with a stance that only moms know how to make ads for moms. But an all-male team of 20-something-year-olds has a much steeper learning curve to understand the mom mindset.

In fact, a homogenous team of any kind is not conducive to great work. The best teams bring in a diverse set of well-informed perspectives. A 2015 McKinsey report on 366 public companies found that those in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity in management were 35% more likely to have financial returns above their industry mean. Put a talented team together of moms, sons of moms, sisters of moms and husbands of moms — from different backgrounds — and some good primary research, and you’ve got the potential for something non-cliché and effective.

As the power of social media can bring behemoth brands to their knees (#deleteUber), it’s even more important to not miss the mark. Brands can’t control their own narrative as easily as they used to when the :30 TV spot ruled. Now it’s the latest tweet. And since moms are heavy users of social media and are quick to call bullshit, if it was ever the time to not piss off mom, it’s now.

Let us PLEASE get to the point where this 1955 quote finally sounds ridiculously out of date. We’ll get fewer eye-rolls from moms and get more out of our ad dollars — when we’re not contributing to the pollution of advertising that still doesn’t get it.

BLOGChad KukahikoBLOG