Promotion or Bro-motion: The danger of exclusionary advertising

Nick Gilyard was one of Peppercomm’s finest interns ever. In this guest blog, the Western Kentucky University star waxes poetic on gender bashing in advertising. You go, Bro!

brogurt_productMy friends and I were dining at a local establishment recently and moments after we were seated we discovered an interesting ad. The trifold that sat in the middle of our table would become the catalyst to an in-depth dinner conversation.

The advertisement was for a frozen cosmopolitan that included a description and great photo of the drink. What was unusual about the ad was a smaller and very targeted ad for the same drink in the lower right corner. If you are thinking it was promoting a skinny-cosmo for those watching the calories, think again. The first sentence in the box read “Not just for the Ladies!” Ladies and Gentlemen (but really gentlemen), I give you *Drum Roll* the Frozen CosBro! A “more generous” version of the frozen cosmo- the same delicious flavors served up in a “more guy-friendly” glass.

When our waiter came over to ask what we would like to drink, I uncontrollably blurted out “Well definitely not the CosBro,” which elicited a very perplexed look from the waiter.

When I first read the text I was in complete disbelief that a chain restaurant would have such a blatantly sexist ad. There are three major issues I have with this advertisement:
1.    The rhetoric “Not just for the Ladies” implies that a cosmo is a drink only to be enjoyed by women. Which subsequently suggests that every man who has or will ever order a cosmo should be embarrassed by his drink choice.
2.    The name CosBro is offensive and stupid. Not all guys are bros and adding bro to a product does not make it more masculine. By this logic we should have Brolish (clear coat nail polish– not just for the ladies) or Broatmeal (oatmeal– not just for the ladies). I think the reason that these silly and unnecessary products do not exist is quite Bro-vious .
3.    It’s bigger and only $1 more. The ladies receive a roughly 8oz glass for $5.99 while the “bros” are offered nearly double the amount for only $1 more. Perhaps this is retaliation against 2 for 1 ladies’ night.

Although Carrie Bradshaw popularized the cosmo on “Sex in the City”, the company was wrong to decide that the drink is exclusively for women. There are similarly sexist ads all over the web and, after facing backlash from customers or the media, companies often issue apologies or pull the ads altogether. But one would hope that in 2013 our ad professionals would be wiser.

How do you feel about the CosBro or any other ads you’ve seen with similar, exclusionary messages? Is there a better approach to gender-targeted marketing?

8 thoughts on “Promotion or Bro-motion: The danger of exclusionary advertising

  1. The media portray men as inept, ineffectual and unnecessary — only interested in cars, beer, and sports. The media portray women as either Betty Crocker with a briefcase or scantily clad vixens draped around whatever product they are trying to sell. And the elderly are portrayed as imbeciles whose only purpose is to take meds and go to doctor’s appointments. All stereotypes; all offensive.

  2. Thanks for reading Joan. I absolutely agree with the portrayal of older people. Years ago when I was in middle school, people thought it was crazy that my grandma instant messaged me.

  3. I find all ads based on negative gender stereotyping offensive. The media portrayal of men as dumb, boorish, inept louts is apt to be as damaging to boys as were the ads that portrayed women as dumb, inept, and concerned only about their looks was to girls. I am surprised that men, who have a certain amount of power in the corporate world, would tolerate it. Would welcome a male point of view on this point…..Steve?
    I hope that some women order that Cosbro and get the benefit of a bigger drink at only slightly more cost!
    And on the subject of negative stereotyping in advertising, my pet peeve is the portrayal of older people as inept with technology. I am old enough for senior citizen discounts and yet manage to handle both a Windows PC, a Mac laptop, an iPad, an Android phone, texting, email, Facebook and Twitter accounts, and I do not have to call my kids for assistance!

  4. Yeah, I see what you’re saying Nick. As a general rule, it pays to play on the safe side. And Steve’s point about male-bashing proves that. Perhaps not many people would intuitively think of male-bashing as a reinforcement of a negative stereotype. But it is pretty evident that much of the media portrays men as neanderthals. Take Family Guy and The Simpsons, for example. What a bad example! Especially for our youth.

  5. Paul I certainly see your point. I think if you want to have a bro party in the man cave, go for it. However, I think that issue is as professionals that craft messages that can (and often will) influence consumers, this type of advertising does in fact help to reinforce negative gender stereotypes whether overtly or subliminally.

  6. Great points, Paul. And, I’d agree with you in this instance. My bigger issue is with the advertising, media and entertainment worlds continued male bashing. It’s relentless and will do a real number on the self confidence of young boys growing up amidst constant reminders that men are boorish, dumb and inept. In fact, Time Magazing addresses the implications of non-stop male bashing in the current newsstand issue. I plan to blog about it next week.

  7. Nice post Nick! But I have to disagree! I don’t see anything offensive at all with the CosBro. Although we should be cautious not to reinforce negative gender stereotypes, there are just some innocuous things that traditionally, or historically, have been more preferential for men or for women – and there shouldn’t be anything wrong with that. The Cosmo is one of them. Can men drink it? Sure. Is it a drink more associated with female patrons? Of course. Same goes for hardware tools – Bob Vila is the face, not Jennifer Lawrence. So it’s obviously more a guy thing. Football and beer – prototypical “guy” things that advertisers have been exploiting for years. Etc., etc. Regarding the “bro” moniker for the drink, it’s just a colloquial term that has been proliferated in the social media age. So whether or not “all guys are bros” is really an arbitrary line.

    I say – give me a “Bro” sandwich that’s bigger than the rest at a “Guy” Football Party held at my “Man” Pad any day! It may not be for everybody, but there are sure a lot of folks who would buy into it!