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Can Boys Create Advertising for Girls?
By: Edwina Owens Elliott
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Okay. Let’s be specific. We're talking about straight boys here, because we all know our share of wonderfully terrific male designers and directors who can out-strut Tina Turner in the highest pair of Louboutins created. But today we're talking straight. Don Draper straight. Never-wore-a-pair-of-pumps-not-even-while-in-drag-on-Halloween straight. Is it possible for he-man ad men to toss their male egos to the side, tap their inner girl, and successfully speak to the sex whose bones they're perpetually trying to jump? Can they design for haute couture fashion? Cosmetics? Tampons?
The first question to ask is how can a man, gay or straight, create advertising for a product he will never use? And sure; the same can be said for women, to some degree. Take jock itch medication. Most women wouldn't know where to begin, but most women have known their fair share of physical pain and suffering. Monthly. And childbirth is it, hands down. So the discomfort of jock itch wouldn’t be that hard for a female art director or copywriter with an active imagination to conjure up. She has the advantage.
Yes, it sounds sexist — and it probably is. But I speak purely from my own experience, and after many, many years in the industry, I’ve seen very few exceptions to my theory. I’ve known four straight men who have successfully created advertising aimed at and marketed to women. Four. And quiet as it’s kept, I believe that number is really only three. (After all these years, he still won’t just come on out already.)
Many straight guys want to design for the female market. Outside the fantasy of sleeping with an endless array of mo-dells, who knows why? There are so many other markets to focus on. There's food, cars, electronics…men’s fashion, even. But these guys want to create spreads for womens’ print publications, ads for cosmetic companies, campaigns for fashion houses. They want to go on the photo shoots and brainstorm with the photographer, art direct the models, design the ad. But it never fails. In the end the final piece looks like another car ad, liquor ad, or a spread for Esquire magazine: heavy on the sex and light on feminine appeal. And there’s one thing that gives it away every time. You know what it is?
It’s their choice of font.
It takes a unique man to understand and appreciate the delicate lines of a serif or the romance in a fine script and when to use either. Or not. Straight men, designers; think they get it but in truth, most don’t. Their layout lacks the flair that speaks directly to the female market. Straight guys are often heavy-handed with their font choices. Or type treatments. And not only don’t they get it, they don’t even get what there is to get. Have you ever tried to explain the special touch that’s required for female-driven advertising? It’s like trying to break down the laws of physics to a two-year-old. It simply does not compute. But take it from a lady designer. We really don’t mind that you guys don’t get it. Really. We don’t.
P.S. Are you a straight male designer? Do you design for the female market? Comment please. Send us a link to your work. Prove me wrong.

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About the Author

Edwina Owens Elliott is a graphic designer, art director, illustrator and owner of FASHION+ART, an e-commerce art gallery. She has a lifelong passion for fashion, art, writing, music, movies, books, theater, cooking, gardening, plotting and planning and dreaming big dreams. Find her online here and here.

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