At first glance, international media behemoth Getty Images may simply look like an enormous database of just about every photograph conceivable, but they’re also the gatekeepers for some pretty interesting data. Given that they are so heavily used (their database saw over a billion searches last year), the information collected is a very effective tool for measuring the changing attitudes in society towards many important topics. And the latest to show a huge shift in public perception? Masculinity.
The collection of happy snaps in their enormous repertoire includes plenty of manly men doing manly things (chopping wood while looking good; starting fires and changing tyres; shooting deer and drinking b–you get the idea), but lately, search requests have been for images of a slightly more … sensitive nature.
Gone are the days of the Marlboro Man; the heroic sportsman kicking a victory goal before snapping the top off a coldie; the six-pack with a smile who tells you to drink Coca-Cola. No, this past year has seen a massive surge in searches for photographs of males that show a little tenderness, especially in advertising.
“We’ve … seen an increase in searches for ‘men crying’, which shows people are using words to try to get to the more emotional side of imagery. There’s also been an increase in searches for quieter moments, men contemplating, thinking, meditating, not necessarily ‘doing’,” says Rebecca Swift, Global Director of Creative Insights at Getty Images, in a recent interview with Executive Style.
With a cultural change of opinion happening around certain issues that have traditionally been gendered, such as parenting (how many ads have you seen which portray “Dad” as a bumbling fool?), and sexuality, advertisers have been cluey enough to jump on board the trend, and seek out methods to engage consumers that don’t alienate or perpetuate a falsehood.
The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has recently cracked down on ads that negatively portray gender stereotypes, especially targeting the notion that men aren’t as capable parents as their female counterparts. The choices made by advertisers to reflect these regulations is shown through an increase in certain search terms.
Getty’s database saw a 53 percent increase in customer searches for “Gay dads”, a 126 percent increase in “Man meditation”, and a 60 percent increase in “Single father”. Through these analytics, Swift and her team were able to compile the “Masculinity Undone” collection–a set of 165 images, pulled from their exhaustive database, which reflect these social changes.
Masculinity Undone is far more than just a set of photos which reflect an ethereal zeitgeist–it has been painstakingly compiled by Swift and her team based entirely on measurable statistics.
“The data gives you a rationale and an argument in a commercial environment,” she added.
“I can’t talk about the things I’m seeing in a ‘fluffy, fashion-y’ way. The data we have gives me a foundation to build these strategies and ideas,”
While it’s hard to imagine the days of Fabio in a leather gilet, cooing about his disbelief surrounding non-dairy spreads, or Isaiah Mustafa spruiking Old Spice on horseback, are behind us, the ever-changing dynamic that is how products get sold is a very incisive indicator of the times.