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Celebrating women in the armed forces with new RAF ad

/ February 19th 2019
Cannes Lions

On Friday 15th February, Channel 4 viewers got their first look at a campaign designed to mock gender stereotypes in advertising by contrasting typical ‘for women’ advertising messages with the work of women RAF officers.

The ads contrast stereotypical advertising messages, such as can be found in makeup and lifestyle products aimed at women, with the reality of life in the RAF. The jarring dissonance between the reality and the artifice of lazily-produced ad spiel was the kernel of the idea.

Sara Dunlop, Director of the production company behind the campaign, Rattling Stick, said:

“This campaign was so satisfying to be involved with. By calling out the clichés and celebrating the incredible real women that work in the RAF, this campaign also became my own personal stand against all the female advertising out there that continues to patronise its audience.  I guess I won’t be getting sent those scripts anymore after this!”

The campaign, put together by the RAF’s creative agency Engine, won Channel 4’s industry leading £1 million Diversity in Advertising Award, after facing down stiff competition from brands including Cadbury Milk Tray, eBay and Flybe.

Channel 4’s Head of Agency & Client Sales,  Matt Salmon, 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.”

The campaign is especially timely, as new research demonstrates that stereotypical representations continue to be prevalent in advertising. Despite the efforts of campaigners and recognition by brands that advertising has a role to play in changing public attitudes. The release accompanying the announcement of the RAF campaign states:

“The research, commissioned by Channel 4, studied the 1000 most watched TV adverts over a four week period and showed examples where women were portrayed in stereotypical and sometimes derogatory ways. In ads where women have a clearly defined role or occupation, just over 40 per cent showed women in a clichéd “homemaker” or “house wife” role.”


Channel 4 will reveal the full details of what will be UK television’s largest ever survey of diversity in on-screen advertising during the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in June this year. It will cover the portrayal of women, BAME, LBGTQ+, disability and social mobility.

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