© 2016— Null Device

Audio Misogyny

sE Electronics, a maker of some often nice audio products, recently put an ad in Sound On Sound magazine for their new low-end condenser mic, the “Magneto.”

Nothing too unusual about that.

What was unusual was that the ad featured the torso of a nude woman, with the text of SOS’s previous review supposedly tattooed upon her skin. The message being, I guess, that the mic was so good you’d want to get a review of it inked permanently onto your skin? If you were a woman? Who was naked?

Yeah, I don’t get it either. It seemed primarily to be “hey guys! Look! Tits! And an ass! ohandamicrophonetooiguess.”

Naturally, people complained. And sE apologized.

Sort of.

At first I thought “hey, they’re apologizing. That’s a start. Mightn’t be the best apology, but at least they’re recognizing that it’s a problem.”

Yeah, except they weren’t. It’s becoming increasing clear from their not-pology and their followup behavior,  that they were merely paying lip service in the hope of avoiding some PR fallout.  It almost worked.

“A number of people found the context to be irrelevant to the product, and so have been offended that we used this imagery to sell the microphone. For this, we apologise.”

No no no no no that isn’t why people were offended. It’s not the context and its relevance to the product, it’ the fact that you thought it was a good idea to use T&A to sell a microphone.  It’s not merely the imagery, it’s the whole idea that this is, in some context, an okay thing to do.

(I note that since it went up, there’s been some changes. The initial apology was one of those “we’re sorry if anyone was offended” kinds of things. Nope, there’s no “if” here. Someone was offended. And it’s not the “offense” part you should be sorry for, guys, it’s for “thinking that this was a good idea in the first place.”  You should be sorry for being jackasses.)

“We believed that by creating a piece of art, we were doing something different, something beautiful, that empowered women and celebrated the beauty of the female form.”

What I don’t even. You want to empower women and sell your mic? Show a bunch of female audio engineers saying how great the mic is. Tossing a hot nekkid babe in an ad doesn’t empower anyone.  That sort of rationale only works when you’re trying to pitch an NC-17 movie (and it’s not a great rationale).

“We now understand that it is not necessarily the subject, nor its execution which has offended, but the fact that some people have considered inappropriate and insensitive used in this context.”

No, it’s pretty much the subject and execution. Inappropriate and insensitive, yes. Okay, sure, let’s think about the context – this would not be out of place in Maxim. That doesn’t make it better.

And thus ended their apology. Not great. But almost acceptable…if they’d stopped there…

“For the people who appreciated the artistic merits of the advert and complimented us, we would like to share with you how the advert was created by our in-house artists.”

WAIT WHAT.

Basically this is “we’re sorry we offended you. Here’s how we did it!”

“The image of the girl in the advert is actually a 3D computer-generated model created to a photo real quality level. A peek into the technical process involved in creating this piece of art has been revealed below.”

Oh, so the women you’re empowering are computer generated. I get it. And this isn’t advertising, it’s ART! Rubens! Titian! Caravaggio! Gauguin! sE Electronics Marketing Graphics Team!

(The original, pre-edit bit had some info about how it was a two-person team, a man and a woman. Oh hey a woman worked on this it’s cool guys.)

They rounded it out with a feedback form. Well, that’s a start, maybe we could leave some constructive critici-

“Do you think that the 3D computer-generated image of the girl has been executed impressively at high quality?

  • Yes, it has been beautifully made.
  • Maybe – I don’t know 3D, but I thought it was real.
  • It didn’t make an impression on me.”

WHAT THE HELL PEOPLE. Send us feedback and tell us how great we are! We’re pretty great! We’ll apologize, but…it was pretty great, wasn’t it?  You either thought it was great or you didn’t notice it.  Those are the only possible options, right!

It was one tone-deaf facepalm after another. And then in a triumph of the Streisand effect, they decided to aggressively curate their facebook page, deleting posts and comments, particularly after some great stuff like this (which of course has been screencapped and reposted many times):

WTF guys

sE’s continued WTF-ery

HA HA YOU GUYS! SHE’S NOT REAL SO IT’S TOTALLY OKAY. WE CAN MAKE HER WHATEVER RACE YOU WANT! NOT RACIST! WE’LL OBJECTIFY WHATEVER YOU WANT! HA HA! PEOPLE JUST DON’T GET HOW COOL THIS IS! WE’LL HAVE TO MAKE HER A DUDE I GUESS.

ALSO WE DON’T RECOGNIZE SARCASM.

Guys, look…

Guys…

C’mon…I…

 

SIGH.

 

Et tu, Neutrik?

This is really bothering me. I’ve harped on this many times, particularly with respect to Neutrik – a manufacturer of fine audio connectors that has made their main marketing campaign an alt-model pinup calendar. It’s nearly impossible to open a trade magazine and not find a ad involving a traditionally-hot girl draped over a guitar or a keyboard – never actually using these items, mind you, just spokesmodel-type pointing at things (the exception always seems to be the manic-pixie archetype playing acoustic guitar to a small audience under dramatic lighting).

These are companies run by people who are clearly very smart, very technical, doing rather esoteric things for a rather narrow, esoteric market, and yet they somehow think that this bro-culture bullshit is a good idea and something that will sell gear. There’s already a huge gender imbalance in the audio industry, for no good reason. It’s just a boy’s club with a “no gurls allowed” sign hanging on the studio door. Whereas some industries try half-assed justifications like “women don’t think about x the way men do” (which are wrong, mind you, but are nonetheless someone’s idea of good reasoning), as far as I can tell in audio engineering it’s mostly just the bad attitudes of the dudes doing the work that keep the words “studio” and “mancave” synonymous. This ad is the sort of crap is a big blinking sign as to why; it’s advertising by men, blatantly targeting a (hetero) male audience, taking the easy cheap shot to get the eyeballs of the largest market share.

I’m not expecting manufacturers to try and change the industry through atavistic advertising, but, for pete’s sake it IS entirely possible to advertise gear – even to primarily male audience – without objectifying women.  Or anyone, for that matter.  Objectify the gear – that’s what it’s for.

The really sad thing is it appears to be working; I wasn’t even aware that sE had a new mic out before this hubbub. And now I know. Granted, I’m not planning to buy one (but then I wouldn’t have before, either) and from what I can tell a lot of people on my approximate level (the mid-to-highend prosumer types) are pissed off enough to not even look twice at sE anymore…but this may have caught enough low-end eyeballs that someone may say “screw that $99 Guitar Center MXL mic, I’ll spend an extra $20 and get this!” Whether that’s enough to offset guys like me boycotting, I don’t know.

Oh, and of course, they have a “limited edition.” It’s pink.

Because of course it is.

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