Is it time for the diversity trend in ads to be extended to men too?

H&M is rightly being applauded for its new fashion campaign, which celebrates how diverse the looks of modern women are. But isn’t it time we did the same for men too?

H&M ad

There is a new ad trend in town. For the last few years, advertising for women has been heavily focused on empowerment, with many brands overtly throwing their hats in with a feminist position. Recently though this has evolved into a wider movement towards diversity.

Diversity is in fashion right now, and hopefully it will stay that way. Ads are starting to reflect a desire from consumers for the communities that we live in to be more accurately reflected in our media: for the variety of different ages, races, shapes and styles that we see around us every day to appear on billboards and TV screens. The most recent example of this is this new, widely shared spot for H&M:

At first glance, this spot feels like a classic female empowerment ad, perhaps in the mould of This Girl Can. But actually it isn’t about bucking up the confidence of women, it’s about celebrating the many different ways we look (so long as we’re all pretty, natch). This is a great thing – to be honest, the whole empowerment schtick is beginning to grow tired, so to see it move on a little is a relief. But, if we’re going to be all about diversity now, where are the men?

When it comes to fashion especially, the depiction of men is pretty narrow too. When do we ever see average-sized men in a H&M ad? Instead they get David Beckham and Kevin Hart on a road trip.

Some brands are cottoning on to the need to treat men with a bit of variety – Axe’s recent campaign being a prime example. Featuring a range of men’s looks, the campaign aimed to show that there are lots of ways of being sexy. The necessity for this message was drawn from some pretty depressing research, which showed that only 15% of men in most countries define themselves as attractive.

Looking at most advertising though, hang ups about looks are still seen as primarily as a female problem, despite the increasing pressures on men to also have a certain body shape and look. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if the diversity trend could extend to them too?

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Lecturer Design Management

Kingston University

Design Assistant

Cultureshock Media