Epic brand fail & scantily clad women?

It was interesting to see the Prime Minister weigh into the debate around sporting team’s attitudes to women, especially since there has been so much discussion of issues related to the treatment of women over the past few days:

“It’s very plain that it’s very important for sporting organisations across the country to show leadership in demonstrating proper respect towards women,” Mr Rudd told reporters.

In the light of this comment, and after discussing the (relatively tamely clad) NetRegistry nurses & some gender issues yesterday, I went for a walk with Jonathan Crossfield & Stilgherrian today. I was seeking out the other booths at CeBIT that I’d heard about with so-called “promo girls” who far outclassed the nurses in terms of scantiness of their attire.

The funny thing about this was that it was actually hard to find the booths in question because, while people could remember seeing the “promo girls”, nobody could actually recall the brand they represented nor the location of the booths.

Eventually a security guard was able to direct us to the correct locations. There were four booths that had women dressed in a sexualised fashion, making the nurses quite pale into insignificance. What I saw really did take me back to IT trade shows back in the last century. I had hoped we’d moved on from the objectification of women to promote technology. But clearly I was wrong.

There’s a bit of puzzlement on my part:

  • I’m not sure why an IT exhibition is considered a place for women to dress in this manner?
  • I’m not sure how many people would display images like this of women in the workplace?
  • I really don’t understand how this actually worked as a marketing exercise.
  • The fact that brand recall was so low that I had to ask a security guard indicates that it was not very effective as a marketing exercise.
  • Perhaps the “promo women” encouraged some attendees to take brochures?  I do wonder how was this linked to ROI?

Most of the exhibitors were happy to let their products be assessed on their own merits. Why did these four brands choose to take such an old fashioned approach? Did they think that women are not technology decision makers? Did they think that it was all in good fun? Would it have been in good fun if it had been well oiled young men wearing tight Lycra pants? In fact, why were there no such men in evidence?  At least that would have indicated gender equity!

BTW: this article by Karen Willis from the Rape Crisis Centre is worth a read

Nurses, naughtiness and women in IT

NetRegistry have raised some ire in some parts by having women dressed as nurses on their stand at CeBIT in Sydney.  In some ways this all takes me back to the bad old days when IT was a blokey world and scantily clad women were commonplace at conferences and exhibitions.

I had a chat to Jonathan Crossfield earlier today.  He explained that their booth at CeBIT has a medical theme.   I do not imply any malice, nor any intent to cause offence with this stunt.  It simply looks like the team thought it would be fun to dress up as medical folks while they worked the booth at CeBIT.  Funnily enough one of my first questions was “is the doctor a man?” and he admitted that the person dressed as a doctor was indeed a man. This made me wonder about unconscious sexism in our society.

The unconscious sexism & misogyny that remains prevalent in our society continues to fascinate me.  And I think that the automatic (and probably unselfconscious) assignment of roles in this case is an example.

But let’s consider a few other things …

  • We are currently in the midst of revelations about systemic demeaning behaviour towards women – especially in relation to rugby league.
  • There have been ongoing allegations of demeaning behaviour towards women by male sporting team members.
  • The calendars featuring scantily clad women and similar that used to decorate workplaces have disappeared.
  • Conferences & exhibitions are places of business to which women have free access nowadays.
  • Governments and volunteer organisations have put enormous effort into encouraging women to enter the ICT industry, and to retaining those already there.

I don’t think this kind of marketing exercise is a good idea in general, nor in particular for a conference/exhibition (doesn’t pass the Mum test).  Further, the day after the Four Corners program about the alleged sexual abuse of women it was bad timing (probably unintentionally so).

But, for the record, there were similar poster in the NetRegistry booth at CeBIT – is there a pattern here? It makes me ponder what the outcry would be if this was an equivalent racial depiction?

CeBIT Frolics

Believe it or not, I’ve attended CeBIT most years for ages. This is because, if you’re working in enterprise IT, it’s one of those conferences you and your boss tend to head along to together.

Over the years I thought it got a little stale and a bit predictable. But last year and this year the organisers have put in a big effort to refresh the format and content. This year CeBIT is having a web focused conference stream called WebForward@CeBIT.

On 14 May I’ll be joining Laurel Papworth, Stilgherrian, Nick Hodge, Hugo Ortega and chairman Jye Smith to discuss how you can “Capitalise on Social Media for Business”.

And, because I’m a panellist, I can access two tickets to the full 2-day conference at a discounted price of $178 + GST (instead of the listed $1295 + GST).

If you’d like to purchase one of these discounted tickets, let me know via email by 9am Sydney time on Wednesday 6 May. Explain why you’re deserving, and I’ll pick the two based on how I’m feeling at the time (whimsical I know, but that happens).

But wait, there’s more! If you miss out, you can still save $160 off the on-site registration price by using the promotional code carrwebca09 . Just insert the code when prompted during on-line registration at http://www.mycebit.com.au.

Note: I shamelessly “leveraged” this idea from Stilgherrian’s website because he did it first & I’m too busy at the moment to be original – thanks Stil 😉

FITT Lunch 13 May

I’ll be speaking at this session together with Karen Ganschow from Telstra. Should be an interesting lunch & good excuse to get out of the office for a while.

Topic:  How to make the Net work

When:  12:00pm – 2:00pm, Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Where:  Harbours Edge, Level 2, Harbourside Darling Harbour, NSW, Australia

More details on the FITT website:

A special value-for-money FITT luncheon on How to make the Net Work that will give you the chance to see just how using social media tools and technologies can really grow your brand, career and your business.

Held around CEBIT Conference & Exhibition (CeBIT has been the unrivalled Australian event for showcasing for IT, telecommunications, software and services), FITT members can attend CEBIT free of charge when attending the FITT event.

So, take a lunch break from CeBIT and join us at the wonderful Harbours Edge venue at Darling Harbour for a contemporary informal social luncheon. With fabulous gourmet finger food, wine and coffee & dessert, we have kept seating theatrette style rather than formal tables to ensure we keep events affordable. This does gives you every opportunity to circulate and network at leisure before our seated presentations.

Bookings here