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Maltesers bursts stereotypes of older women in new campaign

AMV BBDO serves up a suckerpunch to stereotypes of older women in advertising in a new campaign for Maltesers.

Nicola Kemp

Editorial Director

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When was the last time you saw an older woman depicted in advertising in an authentic, funny way? It is a question that topped the agenda at Creative Equals’ RISE conference where journalist and author Caitlin Moran declared: “I don’t think I’ve ever related to a woman in advertising.”

This lack of relatability is particularly acute for older women who have historically been depicted either engaging in the most pointless pursuit of their lives (‘Fighting’ the signs of ageing.) or simply not depicted at all. Let alone allowed to be funny.

According to Brandsplaining published in 2020, only 3% of ads show women being funny. Yet the strength of authentic female writing has shone through in recent years, with TV shows like Everything I Know About Love, I May Destroy You and Fleabag underlining a global demand for a break from the joyless, two dimensional stereotypes of women. 

The joy and creative firepower of breaking free from stereotypes and tackling the sluggish status quo has been brought into the spotlight by AMV BBDO’s latest campaign for Maltesers. The spot features older women challenging the myriad taboos that face older women, including sex.

The joy of authentic portrayal

The campaign which is part of the brand’s ‘Look on the Light Side’ brand platform, challenges the awkward taboos around the way different generations respond to life’s big questions.

In one execution, a middle-aged dad introduces his grandmother’s date as a “companion” to the rest of the family, but grandma isn’t having any of it. She announces breezily: “He calls us that because he doesn’t want to imagine us getting it on.”

While in another a younger woman’s aunt asks her, “How’s your love life?” she responds “Good thanks. Yours? Uncle David keeping you satisfied?”. The aunt responds with a smile and swaps glances with her husband, enjoying her niece's retort and the humour of the exchange.

There’s a constant pressure on women to hit certain milestones at certain times. Get engaged, buy a house, have kids, take up needlepoint. But there’s no ‘right’ way to go through life.

Ellyse O’Connor Europe Regional Brand & Content Manager at Maltesers

The benefits of playing the long game

The campaign builds on the heritage and authenticity the brand has built up through challenging societal expectations. The brand's equally funny and pioneering ads tackle issues from maternal mental health to disability and are funded by the trailblazing Channel 4 Diversity in Advertising Award.

The Mars-owned brand prides itself on pushing boundaries around representation of women, thanks to its honest portrayals of real experiences. As the brand explains: “By laughing through the tough stuff, Maltesers aims to help women build resilience, while educating audiences about the challenges they face.’ 

From a strategy perspective, this campaign reflects a fundamental shift in marketing to women. Namely by showing women as they are, not presenting a list of problems; real and imagined to ‘solve’. The brand successfully delivers not just important societal messages but a genuine lightness and humour. In essence, what this long-term strategy has achieved is akin to resilience-building becoming something of a marketing muscle; due to the fact it is exercised by the brand on a regular basis. 

Bursting the pressure bubble

Ellyse O'Connor, Europe Regional Brand & Content Manager at Maltesers, explained: “There’s a constant pressure on women to hit certain milestones at certain times. Get engaged, buy a house, have kids, take up needlepoint. But there’s no ‘right’ way to go through life, so let’s celebrate women who reject the status quo, live life at their own pace – and do it with a sense of humour.”

AMV BBDO creatives Rachel Tweedy and Jamie Chang added: “We wish women could always respond to those annoying questions like this”.

The power of real voices

The campaign is rooted in real voices. In making the ad, AMV BBDO spoke to groups of women who volunteered real stories about themselves, which helped them to resolve and heal old embarrassment, or take comfort in shared experiences. 

The campaign marks the debut of the director, writer and producer Sebastian Thiel, at MindsEye, in advertising. Once included on the Evening Standard's list of the Top 25 under 25 most influential Londoners, Thiel has been featured on TEDx Talks and is known for directing the TV Shows Just a Couple (BBC 3), Dreaming Whilst Black (BBC 3) and Riches (Amazon). He’s directed the TV and social spots in this new campaign.

Thiel shared that he ‘loves using comedy to challenge conventions.’ He explained: “The focus here was on the awkward moments and the brilliant, funny women pushing against the stigma in their own tongue-in-cheek way. It’s a celebration, brought to life by a fantastic cast and team.”

The new campaign will run, in different forms, across the rest of the year. Along with the TV spots, there are social, radio, and OOH executions.