RAF advert that challenges sexist advertising to debut on Channel 4

Research for campaign reveals women are often portrayed in stereotypical and derogatory ways

Maya Oppenheim
Women's Correspondent
Friday 15 February 2019 15:16
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Air Vice-Marshal Chris Elliot says the Royal Air Force is an 'inclusive employer' which breaks down 'stereotypical barriers' through teamwork
Air Vice-Marshal Chris Elliot says the Royal Air Force is an 'inclusive employer' which breaks down 'stereotypical barriers' through teamwork

A Royal Air Force advert that challenges stereotypes about women is set to make its television debut, as new research reveals how sexism is rife in commercials.

The clip, which mocks gender stereotypes often seen in other mainstream advertising by comparing them to the women on the frontline, will air for the first time during Channel 4's The Last Leg on Friday from 10pm.

The advert comes as early findings from a new survey looking at diversity in advertising reveal the main problem with adverts is the roles women are portrayed as having - instead of the overall levels of representation.

The research, commissioned by Channel 4, studied the 1,000 most-watched TV adverts across a four week period.

In adverts where women have a clearly defined role, just over 40 per cent of them had women in homemaker or housewife positions, according to the study.

Matt Salmon, of Channel 4, said: “This RAF advert clearly illustrates the difference between how women are portrayed in advertising, compared to the realities of everyday life for a woman serving in the RAF.

“It is a worthy recipient of £1m of our airtime and given that our research shows that women are typically shoehorned into derogatory or stereotypical roles, campaigns such as this are long overdue.”

 A still from the new RAF advert

He said he hoped other brands would follow the RAF's lead in looking at how women are depicted in advertising.

The RAF campaign was granted the free airtime after winning the broadcaster's Diversity In Advertising award.

 A still from the new RAF advert

Brands and agencies were asked to come up with ideas that challenge how women are portrayed in adverts. The RAF fought off competition from shortlisted brands eBay, Flybe and Cadbury Milk Tray.

Air Vice-Marshal Chris Elliot, chief of staff personnel and air secretary RAF, said: “The Royal Air Force has been delighted to have worked on this venture with Channel 4 and Engine [the RAF's creative agency], allowing us to showcase the vast range of exciting opportunities available, regardless of gender.”

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She said the Royal Air Force was an “inclusive employer” – noting they break down “stereotypical barriers” through teamwork and hope to encourage others to do the same through the advertising campaign.

Engine's client managing director Louise Hayward said she was proud to have contributed to the RAF's gender parity goals, as well as “challenging the often lazy portrayal of women in advertising”.

Additional reporting by PA

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