THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc. DATE: Thursday, November 30, 1995 TAG: 9511300416 SECTION: BUSINESS PAGE: D1 EDITION: FINAL SOURCE: BY LON WAGNER, STAFF WRITER LENGTH: Medium: 79 lines
Unlike the 1970s when a cigarette advertisement proclaimed women had ``come a long way, baby,'' the woman of the 1990s doesn't have to smoke to show her independence - but she sure is steamed.
You can meet the ``Mappie,'' a newly coined term for male-bashing angry professional women, courtesy of an ad created by Norfolk's own Group III Communications.
Ms. Mappie is a dark-haired, exquisitely dressed, high-cheekboned model, sitting at an outdoor cafe. For no apparent reason, she's dumping a huge brandy snifter of ice onto her date's lap.
The ad, pitching Richmond's Avalon Natural Spring Water, urges bottled water drinkers to ``Do What Comes Natural.''
``What comes natural'' is apparently setting men straight.
``You could read into this ad whatever you want,'' said Dave Iwans, president of Group III. ``Guys know when they cross a line.''
Ad agencies do, too. The Avalon ad, which appeared this summer in Elle magazine and regional editions of Cosmopolitan and Sports Illustrated, has been touted as the latest evolution of the image of women, at least as portrayed by Madison Avenue.
The woman in the Avalon ad continues a 50-year string of fictitious women who may have been a few years ahead of the norm: Rosie the Riveter during World War II, the Virginia Slims woman in the 1970s, the Charlie perfume woman in the 1980s.
``Each time, you have a woman who is out on the forward edge of aggressiveness for the times, and this is in keeping with that,'' said Diane Tench-Cook, director of Virginia Commonwealth University's ad center. ``It's a reflection that women have positions of power today.''
Not all women like their new ``role model.''
``It's saying that women are hysterical ravers who can't take the heat and should get back in the kitchen, where they wouldn't be disturbing the natural order of things and wouldn't have these problems to begin with,'' wrote columnist Barbara Lippert, who coined the term ``Mappie'' in the trade journal ADWEEK.
Lippert lumped the Avalon ad together with a Diet Sprite ad that is being test-marketed. In that depiction, a man is sitting at a table with a drink. A woman walks up, says ``All men are liars,'' and then goes on a tirade about it and asks him what he's drinking. He says Diet Sprite. She says ``Liar.'' She throws the drink on him.
The first appearance of the male-bashing woman in advertising apparently was in a 1993 television commercial for Hyundai. In that scene, two women stood outside a restaurant and offered a running commentary on men appearing in sports cars.
``He must be overcompensating for a shortcoming,'' one woman said. ``I wonder what he's got under his hood,'' her friend shot back.
The Avalon and Diet Sprite ads take it one step further - physical retaliation.
Lippert's write-up in the trade journal ADWEEK brought Iwans calls from the Boston Globe, the Orange County Register and papers in St. Louis, Charlotte and Lexington, Ky.
Proving the theory that there's no such thing as bad publicity, the newspaper articles have equated to about $100,000 in free exposure, Iwans said. That's more than Avalon has spent buying advertising so far.
In creating the ad, Group III set out to test the limits of the image of women in hopes it would cause a stir - and draw some attention.
``That was the goal,'' Iwans said, ``to move the line a little bit further, no question about it.''
They test-marketed this ad featuring the ice-throwing woman against more traditional ads, which the focus groups didn't like nearly as well. And with Avalon's target audience being women in the 25-34 age group, Iwans said, if the ad offends a few men, that's fine.
After all, it's mostly women who buy the water, drink it or dump it on guys. ILLUSTRATION: NATURAL BEHAVIOR?
* A newly coined term for male-bashing angry professional women