Do you ever find yourself watching a commercial, or a movie, or a TV show so over the top in its degree of wrong that you wonder: how did not one of the (certainly many) people required to green-light this lunacy not hit the brakes? How, precisely, at every stage in the creative process, did the wheels of wackitude just keep on spinning?
Such are my thoughts every time I watch one of the Kohl’s “The Sport of Shopping” ads. Possibly you’ve seen them. They feature prominent female athletes—Soccer star Mia Hamm, Olympic swimmer Dara Torres, and Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn, talking to the camera about what we are to presume is the thrill of victory. The adrenaline rush. Being in the zone. But here’s the thing—they’re talking about shopping! In one spot, Torres says, “Nothing else matters. Nothing else exists.” (To which Amy Tennery over at Jane Dough countered: “This from the oldest female swimmer ever to qualify for the Olympics.”)
Back in the earliest days of my former gig, when we were looking into an ad campaign that would explain what a magazine about shopping was, we hired an agency to come up with an ad campaign. One of the first taglines the guys—the ad agency creatives were all guys—came up with was “Think of it as a hunting magazine for women.” I was one of two women in a pretty packed corporate conference room when this concept was pitched, and it got some laughs around the table. But it was everything I was trying to avoid, image-wise: shopping is fun but it’s not a hobby or a sport, and any “thrill of the hunt” language just felt vulgar and wrong.
Happily, I was at a company that valued input from the creative side, and all it took was an indication of strong distaste from both me and my direct boss to squash that idea dead. The world was spared that mortification. Could it be that there were no women in the room over at Kohl’s? Or were they not ranking enough to speak up, and are now quietly horrified too?
As far as the stars of these ads go: I don’t usually get all uppity and these-women-are-role-models-to-our-youth!-ish, but really, ladies! Where were your heads? When you retrieve them, how about getting out your checkbooks and donating a nice big hunk of the cash you’re making from that campaign here?