"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Mother’s Little Helper

Kids are different today, I hear ev'ry mother say
Mother needs something today to calm her down
And though she's not really ill, there's a little yellow pill
She goes running for the shelter of a mother's little helper
And it helps her on her way, gets her through her busy day (
Rolling Stones 1965)

I am surprised that it took so long, but Madison Avenue has finally caught on to what seems to be the eternal mother’s dilemma – getting through the day.  An new ad campaign promotes tippling to women – mothers rule, you have had a tough day, break out the wine, and imagine you are someplace other than washing dishes, changing dirty diapers, and preparing dinner. (Andrew Newman, New York Times 8.30.12), “Marketing Wine to Women”).

Winemakers today are marketing wine to women, particularly mothers, promoting wine as a break from juggling work, family and households.

In recent years brands like MommyJuice, Mommy’s Time Out and Mad Housewife have emerged. Popular Facebook groups allude jokingly to being driven to drink, including “Moms Who Need Wine,”which has more than 640,000 followers, and “OMG I So Need a Glass of Wine or I’m Gonna Sell My Kids,” with more than 127,000 followers In comes Chateau St. Michelle, a Washington State winery:

Britt Peterson, the director of growth strategy at Cole & Weber [St. Michelle’s ad agency], said the campaign is pitched primarily at women 25 to 38, including but not exclusively mothers, whom the agency is referring to internally as “reluctant grown-ups.”

Such women are no longer “just having fun with their friends, but they don’t want to lose that fun part of themselves,” Ms. Peterson said. “They are grown-ups, but they don’t want to feel quote-unquote ‘grown up.’ ”

This picture is not much different from those on any one of 10,000 paperback romances that only women read – books that take the weary housewife away from the drudgery of her mundane, spiritless life and give her romance.  Her husband may be a government clerk with hairy ears and a beer belly, but the Prince Charming in these pages can, for a few hours, carry her to a Land of Enchantment.

“It’s all about the nudge,” said Ms. Peterson, explaining that Chateau is positioning itself as the friend who prods harried women to indulge. “It’s O.K. to eat that whole tub of ice cream or to have that wine.”

Women are dummies after all, say the Mad Men hucksters.  When all is said and done, the Women’s Lib movement of the Seventies was just a blip in the consumer profile. 

The new Chateau campaign also includes a sweepstakes called the “Ultimate Girls Night In,” where, according to a print ad, the brand will “send you and your best girlfriend” on a trip to New York.

Wait a second here.  I lived through the Seventies and was a partner to women who were going through this great catharsis, throwing off the chains of male domination, letting the hair under their arms and on their legs grow out (ugh) and jettisoning their bras (yippee), and demanding equal rights.  Women were increasingly vigilant about any and all sexist references.  One woman who called herself The Phantom wrote letters to every newspaper and journal that she read, calling out the editors for biased slurs, invidious references, and retrograde male thinking.  Little girls’ nurseries were cleared of dolls and replaced with trucks, drills, and pipes.  Pink was outlawed.  So were dresses, cute hair, and dainty shoes.  So now we are back in the Fifties with women tippling, having girls’ night out (in), and giggling over how bad men can be?

We have all settled back into familiar sexual norms.  Commercials aimed at men are all gross-out animal house beer-fests or huge trucks driven by cowboys hauling man-things.

Those pitched to women are all about frilly things, great-looking shoes, and being feminine.

The understanding, of course, is that now that women have achieve their rightful place in civil society and in business, it is OK for them to revert to form; and yet one has to wonder what really has changed.

I recently watched a documentary on Justin Bieber’s 2010 tour.  There were crowds of screaming, crying young teenage girls:

This was not any different from the desperate teenagers swooning for Frank Sinatra in the 40s.

New York fans mob Sinatra, 1943.

Why was I surprised?  I guessed, having lived through the feminist Seventies, that none of this residual girlie behavior would have survived.  That horses, romances, Barbie, frilly things, and teen idols would have disappeared.  Wrong.  Retrograde feminine behavior was alive and well. 

I suppose you could say the same thing about men; but the fact remains that we never tried to change our behavior.  Sure, there was the brief phenomenon of the ‘Sensitive New Age Guy’, all feelings and gushy emotions; but it died out fast, and most of us never left football, hunting, big trucks, and chasing women.

One thing does surprise me – that women are still caught in the mommy-worker-wife circuit and haven’t figured out a way out.  They still need Mother’s Little Helper, and St. Michelle wine is just the trick.

Perhaps the most cynical aspect of the ad campaign is the following:

The brand will not advertise in places that for women may already be escapist “guilty pleasures,” like People and Us Weekly, said Ms. Peterson. Rather, ads will appear “where she is spending the responsible part of her life” seeking knowledge about, say, parenting and meal planning. Ads are to begin appearing on Tuesday in the online versions of Parents, Better Homes and Gardens and Every Day with Rachael Ray.

In other words, the Mad Men still think women are dummies; but we will do a little end-around feint that the little woman will not notice.

Women still take Mother’s Little Helpers, wear perfume and frilly things, go all weepy at soap operas and inconsolable at the sight of Justin Bieber, so all’s right with the world.

One last little touch.  A feature of Justin Bieber’s tour is his ‘One Less Lonely Girl” shtick.  He sings the song to a girl chosen from the audience.  She sits on a stool on stage while he serenades her.  She blubbers, covers up her braces, blubbers some more, and almost dies from his embrace.  As the French say, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” – things never change.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting article. There is something we can to think about. Thank you! Especially I like Justin Bieber more than other modern singers. Last year I even was in tour with his fan's. If you are interested, to see upcoming events with Justin you may on this page https://ticketcrab.com/justin-bieber-tickets

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