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RAF challenges stereotypes of women with new advertisement on Channel 4

RAF campaign that challenges portrayal of women in adverts has won a diversity prize (Olly Courtney)
RAF campaign that challenges portrayal of women in adverts has won a diversity prize (Olly Courtney)

A Royal Air Force advert that challenges sexist stereotypes of women in advertising will make its debut after winning £1 million of free airtime on Channel 4.

The provocative campaign is the recipient of the broadcaster’s Diversity In Advertising Award, a commitment to help improve diversity in advertising each year until 2020.

Brands and agencies were asked to come up with ideas that confronts the portrayal of women in adverts.

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

RAF’s advert has won Channel 4’s Diversity In Advertising Award (Olly Courtney)

The RAF, whose advert was imagined by its creative agency Engine, fended off competition from shortlisted brands Cadbury Milk Tray, eBay and Flybe for the accolade.

The campaign launches as early findings from a new survey looking at diversity in advertising show that the main issue in adverts is the roles in which women are portrayed as having, rather than overall levels of representation.

The research, commissioned by Channel 4, studied the 1,000 most-watched TV adverts across a four week period in which women are shown in stereotypical and sometimes derogatory ways.

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

Matt Salmon, Channel 4’s head of agency and client sales, 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 £1 million 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. We hope that other brands now follow the RAF’s lead in considering how women are portrayed within advertising.”

The advert challenges the portrayal of women in mainstream advertising (Olly Courtney)

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, allowing us to showcase the vast range of exciting opportunities available, regardless of gender.

“As an inclusive employer, the Royal Air Force continues to support each and every one of our personnel noting that they are as unique as the roles they fill. Through teamwork we move forward in breaking down stereotypical barriers and hope to encourage others to do so through this campaign.”

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

The RAF campaign is the third winner of the Channel 4 Diversity In Advertising Award, following a Maltesers campaign – which focused on improving the representation of disability – and Lloyds Bank’s campaign on mental health.

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