We all easily recognize the stereotypical — and sometimes even offensive — pictures used in the advertising of yesteryear. You know the type. The beautifully coifed mother beaming at the camera as she joyfully cooks and cleans. Dad and Brother playing football out on the lawn while Sis watches contentedly from the sidelines, dainty and clean in her pretty white pinafore. Today, you wouldn’t dream of using these images on your website or in an advertising campaign unless you did so strictly tongue-in-cheek.
But, stereotypes sneak up on us. We come across today’s over-used images and stereotypical scenes all the time, but barely notice anything wrong with them. Their sheer daily familiarity allows them to fade into background noise, where they literally go unnoticed, and therefore, unchanged.
But stereotypes persist. Even the well-intended replacements for the happier-with-a-Hoover images of the 50’s can lock women — and men, as well — into awkward, restricting roles. Consider these: the career gal in the tight-fitting business suit and stilettos, literally climbing the corporate ladder. The harried, work-at-home mom with a baby on one hip and a laptop on the other. These are the kinds of pictures that the new collection at Getty Images has set out to dispel.
In February of this year, according to an article published by the New York Times, Getty Images announced its partnership with the non-profit organization, LeanIn.org. Lean In was founded by Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg with the express purpose of exposing the world to more realistic images in advertising. The site is “devoted to the powerful depiction of women, girls and families.” These images — 3,000 of them and growing — are intended to infuse media and advertising with a more authentic view of women and their roles in the world.
Pictures in the collection include a young woman lifting weights, sweat dripping from her face; two college-aged girls facing each other on a couch, Earbuds in place, yet obviously still chatting; a beautiful older woman in a swimming suit with her long, gray hair spread gracefully over her shoulders.
And men are not excluded from the collection. The images of men, defying the stereotype of the three-piece suit and the briefcase, include a grandfather with his granddaughter on his shoulders and a young father caressing his newborn baby. Keyword search terms include words like “togetherness,” “bonding,” and “teamwork.”
Check Your Stock
Others agree it’s time for change. During a March 17 interview on CBS This Morning, ad executive Jeff Benjamin noted that up-to-date images are vital but can be hard to find. Often, he said, a business owner has an idea he or she wants to portray, only to find that there is simply no access to the kinds of images that would have brought that idea “to life.” If you end up picking a less-than-ideal or stereotyped image, Benjamin continued, “your brand suffers.”
Here are a few things to consider when reviewing the images on your website or when adding new ones:
- Are your images up to date? Do they show real people, performing real jobs, in clothes they would really wear?
- Do your images represent diversity? While sometimes you may need to target a specific demographic — teenagers, for instance — always try to show people of varying religions, ethnicities, abilities, and socioeconomic groups.
- Are they sexist? Are all the men in your images shown heading off to office jobs, briefcase in hand? Are women only portrayed in supporting roles? Make sure your images show both men and women in all their varying roles and amazing capacities.
Kate C is a teacher, freelance writer and organic gardening enthusiast. She lives in the desert but loves the mountains. She shares her home with her husband of 27 years and a fat, sassy Boston terrier named Tess.