We need to stop talking about Kevin

There’s a lot of hand-wringing going on in the advertising industry, after Kevin Roberts’ inexplicable (unless you knew him) faux pas.  In case you hadn’t heard, he used an interview with a business publication to say there’s no problem with diversity in the advertising industry.  Turns out he was trying to drum up notoriety to sell his forthcoming book.

In the ensuing weeks, much has been written about the need for more enlightened attitudes to diversity and more generally, progressive attitudes to gender roles.  Unilever have been seen to be leading the way in this – as with various issues to do with fairness, ethics and sustainability.

A good example is Lynx.  The old campaign, ‘The Lynx Effect,’ made by BBH was based on the compelling insight ‘teenage boys are desperate for sex.’  It was one of the greatest and most successful of all time.  The new one ‘Find Your Magic’ by 72 and Sunny is nice too, but so much more ‘respectable’ it gives me one of those ambivalence headaches.  I want to love it – and it’s got lots to commend it; it’s clever, well-observed, witty and so on.  But will it be as effective as The Lynx Effect?  I have a nagging doubt.

I am also reminded of the circularity of everything.  Older readers may remember that in the early 1980s, we saw the emergence of the phenomenon known as ‘The New Man’.  I believe it was coined in the Washington Post, reviewing Dustin Hoffman’s (excellent) cross-dressing comedy, Tootsie.  According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the New Man was someone “who rejects sexist attitudes and the traditional male role, esp. in the context of domestic responsibilities and childcare, and who is (or is held to be) caring, sensitive, and non-aggressive”.  Sound familiar?

As so often, it appears to have taken us thirty years to rediscover something we already knew.  For that, Kevin, we thank you.



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