Author: Geoff Husband
At Christmas we had my wife's family over. One of my nephews (bless him) bought me a copy of "What hi-fi" as my present. Lovely though the thought was I read the aforesaid magazine with an increasing sense of amazement. What brought this on were the number of adverts for hi-fi featuring attractive women, often partially clothed. Sennheiser chose a skinny 16 year old dressed as a hooker throwing aside a pair of headphones under the byline "For long nights in".
Other gems in the same issue include a girl in combat gear and Armalite with her blouse stripped open to the waist and combat pants undone "Seriously well equipped" - Teac. Then another 16 year old semi-clad stroking the chest of her hunky lover "Be ready when the mood takes you" - Sharp. The pouting beauty in her bra and knickers "Elements of desire" - Webelectrics - and the unforgettable "Enjoy sex in comfort" - oops sorry - Durex ad (in What hi-fi?????). Other companies deserving mention being AE, Bose and Jamo.
Boy does this worry me! First it makes me think that there are actually men out there that are so sad that they believe that at the sight of their hi-fi any desirable woman will shed her clothes and slake her lust on their bodies.
Now I hate to disillusion you guys, but I have the sexiest hi-fi known to man - Michell deck, glowing valves, all chrome and wood by Audion and some drop dead gorgeous speakers, but I've never got laid on the strength of it. At best a girl might massage your ego by complimenting you on your taste (whilst thinking what a geek you are) but if you want sex spend the money on a flash car or dinner out (or plastic surgery in my case).
But much MUCH more important is that the companies mentioned above have concluded that no matter how insulting or patronising an ad is to women it matters not a hoot because women have no interest in hi-fi and are no more likely to read a hi-fi mag than 'Playboy'. The magazines themselves have obviously come to the same conclusion.
Lets get a few things straight here. Women like music as much as men. Women have hearing at least as sensitive as men (arguably more so). Women musicians are as accomplished as their male counterparts. Women (in the west at least) earn nearly as much as men and often hold family purse strings.
Women are becoming better educated than men, certainly judging from exam results. And perhaps most important of all women do buy a lot of music. So why does the advertising industry (bottom line boys) treat them with such contempt? Because women don't buy hi-fi. Hi-fi is seen as a "boys toy", not as a serious luxury item. Kate (mother of my children) is far more sensitive to the sound of my system than I am.
Often I'll get a component on test and she'll sum it up in a few words, "too clattery", "sounds muddled" and so on, and in those few words has cut through a mountain of bull s**t that I might write - but she isn't interested in hi-fi as an end in itself. Sadly of the many emails I get a week I've never had one from a woman and I bet that goes for the others at TNT. As far as the industry goes the only important aspect of marketing with regards to women is the WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) a horrible term for a horrible concept.
So the point of this article? We - the manufacturers, media, advertisers etc are doing something fundamentally wrong. We've lost the plot.
Women count and have the ability to bring quality music into many homes, but the male dominated industry sees a woman as a sex object to catch the eye of a male buyer. It's pathetic and I think we're all making a BIG mistake. For those who disagree with me here's a cautionary tale. For 50 years the magazine industry has taken it as read that men don't buy general interest magazines. Sure we buy car, hi-fi and porn but never a male equivalent to 'Cosmopolitan' or "She". Guess what?
In the past 10 years the market has been turned on its head as men buy millions of copies of male 'style' magazines. So think about it... What if in the next ten years some company really gets its head screwed on and manages to switch on women (51% of the population) to hi-fi. Companies like TAG are trying but really going at it half heartedly - come on guys, no other industry could be so blind as to actively discourage half the population from buying their product.
Hell's teeth! Even that bastion of maleness - the motor car industry - has realised that women do drive cars and incredibly sometimes actually buy them. Here's my recipe - get on the women's radio and TV programs. Finance a few studies on how important music is to women. Flatter women by accepting that they are important. Emphasise the musical and spiritual side of music, not the number of watts.
Turn high-end into a ritual of music, not technical expertise. Drop the "black art", exclusionist, geek language and get women to listen... Then and only then will women begin to feel that hi-fi is for them and as a result the industry will prosper and we, all of us, might get some decent, unpretentious and attractive hi-fi on the market.
So all you manufacturers out there struggling in an ever more competitive arena, here's an idea for free (10% of profits actually). Full page ads in all the women's magazines + a blitz on all the TV talk shows - they'd lap this sort of thing up.
Ad features an intelligent women (not a teenage model with implants) listening to a hi-fi under the banner "Women have more acute high-frequency hearing than men, that's why we developed the "Venus" range - for the music in you." - Just don't blow it and make it in pink.
© Copyright 2001 Geoff Husband - http://www.tnt-audio.com
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