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We’re still in the 1950s, darling

Updated: Apr 20, 2018

How an advert of very poor taste almost ruined my Friday morning coffee.

I was peacefully sipping on my cappuccino at my favourite coffee place close to the office this morning, sifting through the Financial Times, when I came across an advert for Graff Diamonds jewellery in the newspaper. The advert in question was the one pictured above. In case you can’t see it, the female character is saying “thank you, darling. I adore Graff Diamonds!”.

Come on, Graff Diamonds: you can’t do better than that? That’s the best you’ve got? Such a weak image of women, insulting in so many ways… Are you really that unoriginal, backward-thinking and narrow-minded? What a failure. So lame. This advert was disappointing to me, but to be fair, I think I need to elaborate (in a way that old-fashioned minds can understand).

It’s disappointing because clearly, Graff Diamonds didn’t expect “me” to be reading the Financial Times. To be more precise, by “me”, I mean my profile: young female professional, educated, interested in world and economic affairs, career-focused, independent. I’m assuming most people corresponding to that profile would feel offended by that advert, to various degrees, which means that both the advertising firm and Graff Diamond (in addition, to a certain extent, to the FT itself) assumed they could get away with it. They basically assumed that people who could get offended or shocked by that advert would most likely not be reading the FT anyways.

It’s disappointing because of the advertising investment of that particular ad and what it means. How much does a quarter-page-size, full-colour advert cost in the FT on page 3 these days? Even if the print publishing business has suffered dwindling production numbers in the last decade, that high amount can only equal Graff Diamonds’ level of arrogance towards any person it could offend, discriminate or ridicule in that investment process.

It’s disappointing because of the many people involved in the creation, production and publication of that ad that were part of such a silly idea. Not only thinking they could get away with it, but even make money on it: that it would target the right audience, that it would work and that middle-aged wealthy men would appreciate the importance of buying diamond jewellery for their (female) loved ones. Every person involved in the value chain resulting in the publishing of this advert assumed this would actually be a successful idea.

To a certain extent, it’s even a disappointment because of the blatant disregard for informed individuals who know (or are even vaguely informed) about the nastiness of the diamond industry. The retro look of the ad also reminds us that the industry has not and is not even interested in trying to improve over time.

The retro, comic-strip look of the ad is also a disappointment because it’s not even trying to conceal the unashamed reference to decades of women stalling in their social status, stating very simply: women, you are just as superficial as half-a-century ago. Admit it: you still count on men giving you nice things, taking care of you and you adoring them in return for their material generosity.

However, it's especially a slap in the face because of the women who are making sure such a market still exists. The wives, the girlfriends, the lovers and the mistresses of this world who are saying to their significant other: yes, darling, diamonds are a sign that you care about me. And the bigger the diamond, the happier you will make me. I confirm my happiness is dependent on you buying me shiny things. I thereby also confirm my dependence on you. I assure you, in that respect, I have absolutely not evolved since the 50s.

The advert is so clear about it that many men will look at it and will not even be shocked by the outrageously shallowness of it. Some might even chuckle and think: yeah, that sounds just about right. Finally, they will think, an honest advert that’s not even trying to hide behind a thin veil of modern-woman decency (for example, by showing a picture of an elegant woman wearing the said diamond ring). Nope, this is the cold hard truth: women are shallow, they love receiving the wonderful gift of diamonds from their wealthy male partners. Period.

I will gladly confess that I love the song “diamonds are a girl’s best friend” (so catchy!) and I’m not insensitive to sparkle. I do appreciate nice things, and I’m grateful when I receive a present from someone I care about. But I wouldn’t be very impressed if a man thought diamonds were the best way to demonstrate his love or care for me. Offer me a cruise on the Mediterranean Sea instead, let’s split the bill and you’ll have my heart. A rose and a book will do as well.

Dear Graff Diamonds, dear advertising agency, dear FT: I wish you all the worst with your future endeavours. Poor sales, plenty of critique, bad PR and ultimately, decline and collapse. Your failure would give me hope in a better future for women and men’s equal rights.

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