Things: a blog by Diana Brucculieri.

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Feminist Fridays: Scotch and Women

I don’t think Feminist Fridays is going to become a thing here, but that’s how I felt about today. I’ve got less than 15 minutes of my Friday left, so here it is. 

A couple of weeks ago, I came across this article and video set entitled “Single Stories,” on FastCo.Create. At first, I was stoked. I like scotch. I like stories. Sounds like the perfect combination for a scotch night if you ask me. So, I watched all of the videos, and when I got to the last one, I was disappointed. “Why?” you ask? Because there was not one single female featured in the campaign. Blah blah marketing, blah blah target audience. I don’t usually feel compelled to do anything about situations like this, but this time around, I decided to write a letter to Lisa Eisenpresser, the co-lead on the campaign, to express my thoughts. Read the letter below if you want. Or don’t. 


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Dear Ms. Eisenpresser,

I am writing in response to the release of The Glenlivet’s “Single Stories” campaign—one that you and your team at The Story Lab helped create.

The stories first caught my eye on the Fast Co. Create home page. As a Scotch drinker myself, merely seeing the name, “The Glenlivet,” prompted me to click the link to read and watch further. I suppose in terms of marketing, that ‘click’ meant the campaign successfully did its job.

Positioned at the top of the page, the videos were the first thing I looked at. I watched Bryan Cranston’s story first. Doesn’t he have a great presence? There really is something about getting a glimpse—without being intruding—into someone’s personal life. It really is true that it can take a relationship to the next level.

As I clicked play on the next video, and then the next, and then the one after that, I found myself wanting to know more about these characters. I wanted to know about the monumental moments in their lives. And I clicked play on the next video, and then… I was back at the first video again.

So then I stopped for a second. And I thought about what I just watched and how I felt. And then I thought about it again. The first thing that came to my mind was, “Where are the women? Where are their stories?”

I was disappointed. Having not read the accompanying article yet, I thought, “Okay, maybe there’s more to this.” So I read on.

“The moment a friend shares an intimate story or detail about their life is a powerful one. It’s the kind of connection that draws people closer, that deepens relationships, and often happens over drinks.”

“True,” I thought. The sentence continued, stating, ”And it’s the kind of connection that sits at the center of “Single Stories,” a brand content campaign from single malt whiskey brand The Glenlivet that features successful men sharing a poignant moment that was instrumental to their success.”

Hold the press. No offence to our male counterparts in the world, but why do men need any more attention towards how they are so successful in this world?

In today’s modern society, where women are struggling daily for gender and social equality, don’t you think a campaign like this is just sending us backwards? The campaign could have included a couple of successful females, and the wording could have been modified to say, “…successful people,” and just like that, the campaign could have resonated with a wider market. Sure, the ‘Scotch-drinking female’ market might be a small one, but this isn’t about neglecting the existing market, it’s about being true to it.

Okay, so you didn’t write that first paragraph of the story, and the writer of this article is just describing what the videos are about. I took a deep breath and continue to read on, hoping for a line that said, “We interviewed women, too! Watch the videos here!” But instead, I read,

"Based on the insight that The Glenlivet gentleman preferred one-on-one drinking occasions and wasn’t using social media unless it proved meaningful, we created a content series that would appeal to this discerning man."

Does The Glenlivet gentlewoman not exist? Does she not enjoy having a one-on-one conversation with a friend over a Scotch? Or do all women just go to fancy bars and sip Appletinis and Cosmos, shouting across the dance floor about how they “Love this jam!” while holding their high-heels in their hands because they don’t know how to walk in them? If that’s the picture that the media is going to continue to paint for generations to come, then we’ll never move forward and I worry for the daughter that I might some day raise.

If we were to crunch the numbers, maybe the percentage of males vs. females that drink The Glenlivet would have yielded only one female in this whole campaign, and maybe that would have been okay, because at least it would have been a little more realistic. But it’s not. Through a bit of further reading and searching, I found a similar series called “The Brotherhood”, in which you were also involved with launching. It seems as though marketing Scotch (or really, any alcohol that isn’t wine or a pink fruit flavoured sugar cocktail with the word “skinny” in the title) just follows a formula as old as the casks that the fine spirit is aged in. For campaigns that claim they are appealing to the “modern man”, they couldn’t be more old-fashioned.

I’m not trying to deny the fact that there really are, in terms of top positions and money earned, more “successful” men than there are women in this world. Those are the kind of numbers and facts that marketing is based on. I get that. But it’s all a vicious cycle. When the types of ads being released start to become less gender-biased, consumers will likely start to change the way they think about what it means to be a successful man or woman; instead they’ll just think about what it means to be a successful human being. Ultimately, this notion would go one step further, and people would not attribute money and power to success, but instead happiness and health. It’s not something that will happen over night, but with one small change here and there, the potential to put gender on a level playing field is there.

You seem to be a successful businesswoman—when you’re working on campaigns such as this one for The Glenlivet, doesn’t it make you stop and think about how it is just contributing to gender bias?

When I read the lines,

"We wanted the experience to be just like the ones we have in our own lives when we sit over a drink with a close friend and process moments of our lives together. When you talk with an intimate friend, your guard is down and you are able to articulate things you may never have before. This is often when we connect to those moments of universal truth.”

I couldn’t help but think it just sounded like a lie. Ironic, since you are trying to emphasize those moments of universal truth. Aside from that, the real reason I felt this way is because you, as a woman, are not just describing moments of our lives in that statement. You are describing moments of men’s lives. You clearly state that the ad is targeted towards men, so why even try to cover it up? You may as well just say, “…When two men sit over a drink and process moments of their lives.” What would have been the difference? Would changing us and our to be male focused make the statement more sexist than the whole campaign already is?

To end on a bit more of a positive note, I will say that I do like these videos. The men portrayed in each really do seem like the kind of gentlemen you’d want to get to know. But don’t you think the world deserves to meet that kind of woman as well? 


Diana Brucculieri

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A couple of shots from the Banff trip Tree and I went on last October. Kodak Portra 400 120mm x Holga.