Verizon's mildly sexist "cellphone for the ladies" ad, annotated

From this month's "Real Simple" magazine. It's a neat collection of stereotypical women's preoccupations, none so outrageous it stops the eye but, together, forming a lovely symphony in frilly pink. Here's a compulsory addendum from the BBC's Look Around You, the Petticoat 5 women's computer...

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20 Responses to Verizon's mildly sexist "cellphone for the ladies" ad, annotated

  1. Anonymous says:

    @18 You mean you don’t like the idea of a game called “Imagine Babyz?”

    Also, I feel like stating that a device is simple is just common practice. Do men see an ad and say: “Oh man, I just have to reconfigure my router and write a perl script and wave this chicken over my phone and I can use it to send a picture to someone? I’m in!” because they’re men and they like to go through hell to do simple things?

    The functions mentioned WERE simple, so they should let you know that to accomplish them, the process IS simple. I mean, they’re lying (Verizon firmware sucks) but at least it’s not telling you *difficult* processes are easy.

  2. Enochrewt says:

    Next they will be telling marketing critters to not market tampons to women.

    If this ad said something like, “Dumbed down, easy to use features, because women just don’t get gadgets” then yeah, people might want to get upset. Otherwise, I don’t see what’s wrong with marketing a product to a certain demographic.

  3. DMcK says:

    Looking at this again, I’m finding the phrase “curve appeal” a bit curious. Seems to be a play on “curb appeal”, which is a term used in the real estate biz to denote the attractiveness of a given property’s exterior. So: the target demo is…girlish real estate agents?

  4. scissorfighter says:

    Well, politically incorrect as it may be to say this, stereotypes exist because they exist. They’re real. So what? For some reason people like to spout off about their individuality and whine, “don’t pigeonhole me!” but the fact is groups of us are more alike than some might like to admit. Hence, stereotypes are born. And advertising is all about hitting that target demographic, so it’s no surprise that you’d find a woman-targeted ad sporting some stereotypical language. Just like the thousands of other ads targeting other groups with other similar tactics. Get over it.

  5. Not a Doktor says:

    Ooh! ooh! I have an ad idea

    ::Attractive late 20’s woman is cellphone shopping with her fat friend (fat:tv:stupid), they stop at a phone kiosk and start looking. Friendly sales guy comes up, makes small chit-chat::

    Sales Guy: *blahblah* and this one comes in pink!
    Fat Friend: *offended look* HOW dare You imply such sexist remarks! Just because we’re strong wome-
    *Attractive woman interupts*
    Attrac Woman: Dose this come with a matching headset?

  6. carolm says:

    @#4: What I consider condescending is that the advertiser chose to leave out the many remarkable tech features of the Curve and focus on things like, “TXT a friend! Call the sitter!” No mention of global connectivity, the ability to act as a modem for your laptop, excellent PC desktop software, multimedia…

    But who cares? It’s so pink!

  7. theboredom says:

    There’s a billboard near my house advertising this bourgeoisie women’s shoe boutique. It has a photo of an ecstatic young well-to do woman holding a phone. The billboard reads: ‘Your husband just called, he said ‘Buy ‘em all!’

    As bad as that is, considering the location of the shoe shop and the demographic they cater to it is sadly appropriate.

  8. Teapunk says:

    If you want blatant sexism, look no further than Ubisofts games for girls “My (insert pony, hairdresser, baby, WTF here)”.
    I guess when you play games like that on your DS at an early age, you feel ripe for Barbies pink blackberry.

  9. celynnen says:


    No, they’re not “not marketing” tampons to us, they’re telling us to “Have a nice period” now!

  10. DragonVPM says:

    I note that the mildly sexist ad did include a sport metaphor (“throw your life a Pink Blackberry Curve”) so I’m not sure how “sexist” this ad really is.

    IMO sexist would be an ad pushing women towards a simple phone because the Blackberry is too complicated. Given that this is a PINK Blackberry, I’d say the ad is more reflective of the target audience (i.e. busy soccer moms who care about what their phone looks like and would find a pink PDA appealing) for that specific phone.

    I’m sure we could have a long discussion on the implications of selling a pink phone and directing it towards women, but I don’t think it seems horribly sexist to be targeting a piece of fairly current business technology at women, some of whom (e.g. stay at home moms) might not normally look to buy something like that.

  11. Sekino says:

    I’ll say I’ve been wondering more and more why there are little to no complaints when beer ads show stereotypical male representations while showing a woman being stereotypically ‘feminine’ is asking for trouble.

    Sure, stating that all women do and care about the same things is wrong. Yet if most women did not care about ‘looking good’ and ‘pretty stuff’, there would be several billion-dollar industries going down the drain (beauty products, fashion magazines, cosmetic surgery…). Millions of women love pretty, fashionable products.

    If this phone ad is deemed sexist by pointing out ‘women’s preoccupations’, I have four words for you:

    Sex And The City

  12. jenjen says:

    I don’t know if I want that phone. They don’t tell me if I can use it to manage my recipes. Help. Help.

  13. carolm says:

    Marketing to women is fine. Doing it in such a condescending way is irritating and makes me want anything BUT a pink BlackBerry Curve. (Eh, I don’t like pink much anyway, despite my being a lady and all.)

    The video is brilliant.

  14. jathomas says:

    I would say the thing that stands out as the most sexist part of the ad MIGHT BE “Call the sitter” with the notation “Call the sitter? Don’t make it seem too complex.”

    Ummmm.. What? Because women are stupid? Calling a babysitter is near impossible for them? What gives?

  15. dculberson says:

    Rob, thanks for reminding me of Look Around You. I had to watch a bunch of them just now.

  16. DragonVPM says:


    Out of curiosity, what makes this Verizon ad condescending? I mean, I get that it might not appeal to you (it doesn’t appeal to me either), but aside from the commentary from Real Simple, what makes the ad offensive? I’d say the ad clearly isn’t directed at you (or me) since it doesn’t sound like you’d want a pink Blackberry Curve regardless of how they advertised it.

    It just seems like it’s targeted at specific women and it’s no more offensive than the ads targeted at kids/teens (ageism! ageism!) or families.

  17. Gloria says:

    @2: Men don’t like talking, and women do, ergo there aren’t as many complaints about male stereotypes.

    Also: I love looking pretty!

    I like ads that are smart, witty, and effective, which are all qualities that can be perfectly gender-neutral, but clearly too difficult to accommodate. Subscribing to simplistic ideas like “women like attractive things, and attractive, in woman terms, means pink” is much easier.

    The counter-ad to this that pops to mind is Apple’s display of Nano iPods in a rainbow of colours. It offers choice, focuses on the inherent appeal of the product, and doesn’t tell you what you like based on the contents of your pants. And I’ve never even owned an iPod in my life.

    My cellphone is manly black, and my DS is blood red (or is it lipstick red?).

  18. DMcK says:

    I believe “whore red” is the official BBG designation for that particular gadgetary hue. Make of it what you will.

  19. BuildUupBuzzKill says:

    but i do hear that it has the latest Betty Crocker catalog pre loaded and has GPS to tell you where the closest super market is and the best place to get your hair done within 5 miles of your well kept home.

  20. DragonVPM says:


    Ok, I think I see where you’re coming from, although I’d suggest that the points you bring up would just as easily prompt complaints from some non-tech savvy people that there aren’t any phones for them. IMO the ad hits on the most common points that a non-business user would care about (web access, text messaging, calling).

    I doubt we’ll see eye to eye on this, but I’m actually impressed that they’re trying to sell a Blackberry to more than the businessman/woman on the go. I know quite a few people who I wouldn’t try to sell a Blackberry to and some of them are women who might be intrigued by this ad. Heck, aside from the color, I think quite a few non-techy people might find this appealing.

    For instance, look at how many text-friendly phones are out there with strange flips and slides that reveal keyboards. That’s probably a much bigger market share than people who genuinely need to use their phone as a modem for their laptop.

    The pink thing still seems odd to me (IMO the various shades of pink that electronics companies use are horrid… even for pink), but based on what I see out and about, a lot of people (mostly women) seem to like their pink gadgets (and it’s not like there are any gadgets that only come in hideous shades of pink).

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