DIRECTOR: “I want to do something cheeky that appeals to Millennials. Something like lolcats, but less cutesy.”
STAFFER: “What about hook-up culture? Hook-up culture is totally a millennial thing. Let’s riff on that.”
DIRECTOR: “Good idea. How can we riff on hook-up culture without being creepy? I don’t want to trigger anybody or encroach on any safe spaces.”
STAFFER: “How about we subvert the trope of horny college guys, and feature a horny GIRL instead?”
DIRECTOR: “That’s awesome and so fresh. Let’s go with it. By the way, does anybody here have any experience with photoshop or copywriting?”
DIRECTOR: “Alright, screw it, I’ll have the intern figure it out. It can’t be that hard.”
Before I address the predictable conservative outrage, I must first address the campaign itself:
Newsflash: All of ProgressNow Colorado’s ads are lame. They’re lame, hackneyed, and also cheap and unprofessional. They appear to have used staffers or volunteers as models, instead of professional models (which sounds like a good idea because of body/beauty diversity and all that jazz, but the benefit of professional models is that they know how to pose for a camera, rather than stand awkwardly with a kayak). Hiring a freelance copywriter might have meant that the ads would have easy-to-read, properly-punctuated taglines, not 7th-grade-level writing. And you guys, did you know you can outsource your photo editing and layout to a freelancer for a day’s pay? Because I must ask, what is going on in this advertisement? Is the guy in back supposed to be a second away from getting clocked by the other guy’s backswing? Are you sure you didn’t just paste one guy over the other?
I’ve worked on social advocacy campaigns before, and this is some crappy work. I’ve also seen small organizations turn their “social viral marketing” over to the interns, whose technical and artistic skills have been on par with ProgressNow Colorado’s.
All of that aside, apparently this birth control advertisement is creating some controversy among conservatives (I know—I’m shocked too). Republican pundit Kelly Maher calls the ads “demeaning” to women. The Colorado Observer accuses the ad of “encouraging” young women to hook-up. Dana Loesch called it the “You’re a Whore” ad. Jon Gabriel of Ricochet says it promotes binge drinking and hook-up culture. The Daily Caller, in one of the most Daily Caller-esque headlines ever posted, called it an ad for “Hosurance,” (though to their credit, they also noticed the ad’s glaring comma splice). And Emily Miller at The Washington Times: “But treating young women like cheap sluts who don’t care about their health or well being other than getting cheap birth control pills to have sex with strange men is offensive.”
ProgressNow’s executive director responded to the outrage with only the following: “People get upset when you portray women as independent.” I’d normally agree, but did she really just try to tell me that relying on government for birth control makes a woman “independent?”
The bottom line is that these ads are stupid, and both conservatives and progressives are trying to stoke the “War on Women” fires. Conservative pundits complaining about this portrayal of women as “vapid” or “sex-crazed” are ignoring the fact that the ads are just, frankly, stupid and ineffective. Moreover, focus on the ad’s content misses the bigger point entirely: progressives and the left have been invested in a long game of pandering to women by telling them they’re independent while simultaneously increasing their dependence on the government. That, and that alone, is the only criticism conservatives should be voicing about this campaign.