Pitching to women? Make whatever it is pink


“Women create their own glass ceiling”

This advert has been around for a while and was published in a Dutch feminist magazine (Opzij), back when Hillary Clinton was running for President of the US, but the negative responses to it from men and women told me I had to run with it.

The glass ceiling is that invisible barrier some women encounter in the workplace when climbing the corporate ladder and not getting that promotion because they are female. In Canada and the US, this issue is pretty much a thing of the past, but in the Netherlands, set the clock back about 15-20 years. The top women in business here are often foreigners.

I polled my women entrepreneurs’ group and they generally did not like the cheap joke, although they could imagine that the marketing guys (men probably made this ad, statiscally) thought it was amusing, as did one woman. She also pointed out this ad was voted “most emancipatory ad” in Opzij magazine.

The whole point of this ad was to convince women to go to Gamma (hardware store) and buy stuff. All the women I polled said that they did not need signs with rounded corners and childish pink things to go out and buy a power drill. We all found that insulting.

And then I asked Dutch marketing journalist Jeroen Mirck what he thought.

“Every marketer reads the same market research, which means that all hardware stores get the same advice about marketing aimed at women. Although Gamma is extending their interior decorating range, people usually go to IKEA for that. A woman who builds things also needs a hammer, some wood, a faucet or a drill. It’s all really nice to push extra things at the cash register (which women are very sensitive to, according to the same market research), but a hardware store should not forget who their main target audience is: men.”

Besides the pink for women disease that so many companies fall prey to — and no one knows why AND it looks a gay pride thing — I thought the ‘glass ceiling’ bit was painful because it’s quite true here. And then when I saw the Oval Office, I thought of the other Clinton, the man that had Monica Lewinksy ‘climbing up the corporate ladder from under the desk’, but that’s just me.


  1. chris says:

    As a woman and an outsider here, I really appreciate your coverage of advertising, stumbling on this stuff is hit and miss. As for this ad, the double entendre is pretty good for a hardware store. Women do create their own glass ceiling (and yes, could build one, ha ha). As Eleanor Roosevelt (who had a Dutch name) said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Or words to that effect, which leaves foreign women coming in and snagging the top spots. Seems to be the same in all Germanic countries.

  2. Orangemaster says:

    Wonderful quote, thanks for that!

  3. Jay Vos says:

    Great post. Bedankt! This is what I like about 24oranges with its broad array of cultural comment, often giving us insight into cutting-edge Dutch stuff, particularly Branko’s post which I love. The Roosevelt quote is indeed accurate (thanks for that!) and from her book ‘This Is My Story,’ published in 1937 (!!) and very telling, if you know anything about her personal development and public struggles to be a human rights reformer.

  4. Darth Paul says:

    Er…a thing of the past in the US? Does tokenism not exist in the NL? Even at the executive level, our top women still earn considerably less than men. “Glass ceiling” applies to salaries as well as position.

  5. Orangemaster says:

    @Darth, tokenism (‘excuus Truus’ in Dutch) and salaries are two different things. Men earn more than women in all Western countries, but actually being at the top is an issue here.

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