Rose McGowan has warned marketers to really think about the products they are selling and the messages they are conveying through their advertising.
Opening day two of the Festival of Marketing this morning (11 October), McGowan said marketers have to consider their impact and take their responsibility seriously.
“Take care. Really consider what you are putting into people’s minds. Really consider the tiny details. Really consider how you bend people’s minds, affect them,” she said.
“You all have jobs that are very specific to you. But sell what you would want to be sold. And consider what you do to other people. You put product in minds, that is what the job is. Be careful, think about it.”
McGowan rose to prominence as an actress in films such as Jawbreaker and Scream, as well as TV series Charmed. She has since become as well known for her activism and is a prominent voice in the #metoo movement.
She highlighted the issue of advertising that shows only women doing household chores, never men, and the impact this has on society’s perceptions of their roles. This is an area the UK ad industry is trying to tackle, with ad regulator the Advertising Standards Authority introducing rules around negative gender stereotyping.
“Look at what you’re saying,” she added. “In every commercial you see women doing the chores, but I see a lot of men do laundry and wash the dishes. It’s perception versus reality.”
That gender split is a problem McGowan brought up a number of times. She pointed to the perception of Disney films being about princesses being rescued by their prince, when in reality just 23% of speaking roles in Disney films are women, “yet we remember the princesses”. This is an issue that goes beyond just Disney.
She added: “[We need to] go back to seeing everyone as human.”
McGowan also reflected on her experience of Hollywood and how, at the height of her fame, she felt like a “product for sale”.
“I was the cigarette they told you you needed to smoke,” she said. “I was marketed very specifically as a sex symbol which was something very much at odds with who I was on the inside but there was no Twitter, no way to speak for yourself. Every interview I was primarily asked about the men I worked with.”