A Facebook Message From a Friend

girl geek in green tshirt 'guns don't kill people, magic missiles do'

Image shared via CC on Flickr by Lamazone

I received this, today, from someone I met on a writing course a couple of years ago. I’m glad he shared it with me, and I thought you might be interested in reading it too.


Hope you’re well. Thought you might like to hear about a bit of a back and forth we’ve been having at work. Feminism-related, and frustrating from our point of view (and probably yours). What with your interest in the topic I thought I’d share the anecdote.

I work in a Creative Advertising Agency, these days, as a Copywriter. One of our accounts is a major retailer (who shall remain nameless). The client is keen boost sales of technology-related stuff to women over the Xmas period, as they see it as an untapped market.

The idea the client came up with was a “Girl Gamer’s Survival Kit” – everything from fancy gaming keyboards/mice to xbox bits and bobs. They wanted us to design three A3 posters to be displayed in their UK stores, advertising the range of products.

Reservations about the name aside, we went out and spoke to any female employees (and occasionally customers) we could find in our local GAME, GameStation, HMV video game sections etc and found out that, without exception, they didn’t give two fucks about things being pink, they just wanted nifty gadgets, cool peripherals… just the standard stuff, really.

With this in mind we went back to the office and designed what we thought was a pretty good campaign. It was chiefly black in colour, shiny – we wanted it to look as ‘bad-ass’ as possible. There was a girl on it, mid-shot, wearing a plain black t-shirt, slightly alternative-looking. But yes. It was awesome.

We then sent it over to the client.

It came back with a one-sentence reply:

“I don’t get what this has to do with girl gamers.”

Over the course of the next few days (with a back and forth conversation between the client and our account managers) the advert gradually became more and more pink. And more and more sexist.

The final poster they’re going with features what looks like a scantily-clad bad CGI Lara Croft-style woman with enormous breasts holding a ray gun or something. It’s pink. As are all of the gadgets on it. Pink X Box controller, pink X box add-ons… everything.

Unfortunately the money only flows one way – and we’re there to do what the client asks us to. We can argue with it and fight our corner, but ultimately the advertising industry is subservient to the clients who foot the bill; and their fear of change.

I just wanted to write and say sorry.

We tried our best.



How do we send a message that we’re more than tits and pink? Is it time for some kind of petition? Some kind of ‘girl gamer’ movement that can raise its voice loud enough that the advertisers listen?

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8 Responses to “A Facebook Message From a Friend”

  1. naomi dawson December 14, 2010 at 2:48 pm #

    Ever heard of this website? http://www.pinkstinks.co.uk/

  2. Hannah Nicklin December 14, 2010 at 2:50 pm #

    Hi Naomi, thanks, yes I know Pink Stinks well, and think it does brilliant work, but it’s often aimed at younger girls’ products, and also is an organisation working for others – very useful, but I wonder if actual consumers all putting their voice to something is more likely to affect advertisers? I.E., some kind of girl gamer manifesto signed by millions of people?

  3. Laura Nadine December 14, 2010 at 3:52 pm #

    I just wanted to say that this article really annoyed/upset/angered me. I hate the fact that I still get pigeon holed and stereotyped as a “girl gamer”. We should make a stand. Just sayin’…
    Also, I blogged about this :] http://lauranadine.tumblr.com/post/2313130584/the-girl-gamer-rant

  4. Hannah Nicklin December 14, 2010 at 3:56 pm #

    Hi Laura, thanks for the comment, and for blogging about it! Know how you feel, maybe we should wiki-edit some kind of ‘girl-gamer’ manifesto?

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