Maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s copywriting.

A friend of mine recently directed my attention towards an Instagram account she thought might catch my eye. And boy, did it EVER – but not for the reason you would think.

LA-based copywriter and content producer Eileen Matthews created a project called 100 Days of Feminist Ads. In these cheeky political ads, she takes the ever-so-catchy headlines of well-known big brands and flips them on their head. After my snorting laughter subsided, I became curious about the strategy behind Eileen’s project. Why are these ads, and other less politically motivated (but equally funny) ones, so effective?

The answer? Cultural appropriation.

Behind the spot-on graphics and killer copywriting is a layer of understanding that activates the power of Eileen’s ads. I guarantee you wouldn’t know why the Head & Shoulders ad was so funny unless you were familiar with the product (or had seen previous ad campaigns).

100 Days of Feminist Ads j- Head and Shoulders Campaign

It’s a dance between word and image that relies heavily on the reader’s cultural background. In a strategy that can be very hit and miss – in Eileen’s case, very HIT – there isn’t a big margin for error. It’s also a stark reminder of how delicious language can be when paired with the right visual, and it’s a recipe we here at greenhaus experiment with each and every day.

I don’t want to gloss over the content of Eileen’s project because it’s incredibly important, but from a copywriter’s perspective the most fascinating tactic she uses is her unique blend of cultural references and slang. As an Aussie, I don’t quite get a lot of the U.S. government specific references, but what I do appreciate is the integrating of terms like ‘mansplaining’ and ‘JK’. They bring lightness to the serious realities hidden just below the surface of each ad and make the message feel more human (and less ‘sales-y’).

100 days of Feminist Ads will eventually come to a close but our relationship to advertising continues. What this project reiterates is that culture is an incredibly versatile tool that when turned in on itself can produce some hilarious – and eye opening – results.

 

Marion Piper – for those hard to reach words.

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Craig Fuller cfuller@greenhaus.com
Paul Whitbeck pwhitbeck@greenhaus.com

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