There’s an old saying that you can’t make the same mistake twice, and from the looks of it, it’s one cliche the advertising team at the Bic pen company took to heart.
The makers of ballpoints landed themselves in some hot ink this week with an ad posted on its Bic South Africa Facebook page that read, “Look like a girl, act like a lady, think like a man, work like a boss #HappyWomensDay.”
OK, now go back and read that again.
Look like a girl.
Act like a lady.
Think like a … what in the world were they thinking?
The slogan was paired with a photo of a woman in a grey blazer smiling while she apparently thought manly thoughts about pickup trucks, and razors (yes, Bic makes them too!) for shaving her scruffy beard, and well, what exactly is it men think about anyway?
Take a gander at the full ad — complete with its little “yay, happy women” hashtag:
The ad is sexist, misogynist and a whole lot of other ‘”ists” besides.
And that’s all upsetting because — well, do you think the folks at Bic know what the words “misogynist” and “sexist” mean?
But what’s especially startling about Bic’s backward blunder is that it’s not the first time the pen company has been caught in a public relations nightmare over its advertising to women. Anyone remember the “Bic for Her” debacle of 2012? When the very same company was raked over the coals — and for good reason — by women around the world for trying to market pens “designed to fit comfortably in a woman’s hand” with an “attractive barrel design available in pink and purple”?
The company was excoriated online for treating women like we just couldn’t handle all that manly power of a thick blue writing utensil.
That was three years ago. The company never pulled its pens — they’re still for sale. Nor did executives and the marketing department learn their lesson, as this ad so clearly shows. And that may be more frustrating than anything.
One mistake, wrong as it may be, can be forgiven. People can say, I’m sorry, I’ll do better next time, and then actually do it. That’s how life works. You screw up, you learn from your mistakes and you chart a new course.
Just look at beer companies like Budweiser, which made a major flub with its rapey “take no from your vocabulary” ad, apologized, and has since seemed to move toward classier advertisements, such as the popular puppy ad from this year’s Super Bowl.
Companies are supposed to be getting the message that their blatant misogyny does not fly anymore.
But if a viral P.R. nightmare isn’t enough to clue a company in… what will?