Wanna Know What Our Kids See When Confronted With “Sex Sells” Messages? Watch This….


We’ll have a full heaping of objectification with a side of misogyny, thanks! That’s essentially what comes to mind when we view an image like the Dolce & Gabbana advertisement above. Designer clothing or perfume is probably the last thing we think of, sadly. The trend of using women’s bodies as a vehicle to sell unrealistic and idealized notions of perfection and beauty has been around for eons, as has the notorious “sex sells” mantra that has become a well-worn phrase.

Earlier this year a new campaign called Women Not Objects was launched, by an advertising industry executive no less, who was determined to change the representation of women in ad campaigns. Madonna Badger, who heads up Badger and Winters creative agency, came up with the idea for this through a very tragic moment in her life.

A few years ago her daughters and parents died in a house fire in Connecticut and she and her ex-partner, the father of the children, were the only ones to survive. Out of that heartbreak, Madonna decided she wanted to use her career to honor the memory of her girls, and figured making a change in her own industry was a great start.

The campaign has released two videos so far, both of which are shocking, controversial and very confronting. Using actual pieces of advertising that exists today, the first video shows women sarcastically responding to the blatant sexualized messages portrayed, and the second one exposes some of the harmful trends like the “thigh gap” and how they are discussed in the media which then filters into our everyday lives and subconscious.


A third video has now been released, this time attacking the issue from the perspective of children. ‘What Our Kids See’ is probably the most startling video they have made, because it shows just how affected the younger generation can be when they see images of (mostly) women in positions they are not accustomed to seeing in the real world.

“A lot of us have become desensitized to objectifying images of women. Our children have not,” says a description of the video on the WNO Tumblr account, adding that all the kids featured had their parents view the advertising before they were allowed to see it themselves.

Madonna unveiled the video during a presentation at the Canned Lion International Festival of Creativity in June, where she explicitly stated to the audience that the “sex sells “message is actually hurting kids. In her talk, titled “Sex, Lies and Advertising” (which AdWeek.com points out is also the title of a classic Gloria Steinem article) Madonna said this was a natural extension of what she is doing in honor of her young daughters, and the focus on children is especially important after research her firm did with the help of The Girls Lounge.


They surveyed 2,700 consumers aged 18 to 74 and found that ads which portrayed objectified women are “disastrous to brand reputation and extremely damaging to purchase intent” and that “People don’t want to buy whatever we are trying to sell.”

Yes you read that right, “sex sells” actually does not help brands sell anything.

“For every boy to learn that every girl is his equal … this is the future I’m fighting for. There’s lots of talk of gender equality, but stopping objectivization has no gender, just as great strategy, respect and dignity have no gender,” she told the audience.

She did admit there has been some reluctance from others within the advertising industry to forsake the “sex sells” mantra, but Madonna is not about to quit because of a few naysayers.

“Real change happens when people come together and take a stand,” she said.

During her presentation she mentioned newly-elected mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who recently made news after deciding to ban a series of advertisements by Protein World from transportation services, which caused major global controversy over it’s ‘Beach Body’ campaign images featuring a woman wearing a yellow bikini.


“As the father of two teenage girls, I am extremely concerned about this kind of advertising which can demean people, particularly women, and make them ashamed of their bodies. It is high time it came to an end,” he said in a statement about his decision which is clearly having an effect on many people.

It shouldn’t have to take a government leader creating an enforceable law for the advertising industry to realize the harmful effects of indoctrinating children with sexualized and objectified messages about women and their bodies from a young age. Clearly the problem is not just confined to one country, it is a global epidemic that many people are finally waking up to.

In Spain, artist Yolanda Dominguez made a video showing young children react to high fashion print advertisements where mostly women but also some of the men were portrayed in rather uncomfortable and powerless positions. In ‘Ninos vs. Moda’, the kids showed very similar reactions to the American kids in the Women Not Objects ‘What Our Kids See’ video.

It’s time for those within the advertising industry to set a new trend, one that doesn’t trample on the self-esteem of young children and women before they even have time to understand concepts of confidence and self-love. Selling a product shouldn’t be about denigrating a certain group of people in order to trick them into spending money. It’s really awful how powerful, and sadly normalized, this trend has become, but we are thrilled to see executives like Madonna Badger take a stand and make a change from within the industry that has the power to do so.

You can watch ‘What Our Kids See’ below:



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