Mancession Blues: Ford’s “We Own Work” Ad Campaign

Ford has introduced an ad campaign in support of its already machismo-motored efforts to sell tough trucks to tough guys.

The “We Own Work” campaign hammers home the message that tough men are real men and real men drive tough Ford trucks. The rest of us just wouldn’t understand.

Ford ads have never exactly been subtle about appealing to blue collar men who feel massively insecure about their masculinity, but the blatant-ness of this campaign reflects a very real social issue.

These are truly desperate times for tough men. During the economic downturn, male-dominated blue-collar industries like those depicted in the Ford ads took a massive hit. As a result, unemployment rates among men actually climbed higher than unemployment rates among women (Source).

This “Mancession” has caused some pretty scary social shifts. Well, “scary” if you are a tough rugged manly man who thinks being anything other than a tough rugged manly man is weird and frightening.

Men who have historically been the breadwinners of the family are out of work, and unable to support their families. As parents continue to juggle the pressures of paying bills and finding child care, more women have become the family breadwinners while an increasing number of men have stepped into the role of primary caregiver.

New York Times Cover

All of a sudden women are bringing home the bacon and it’s Dad who stays home and cares for the kids. To a Ford truck guy, this is the gender apocalypse.

Daddy with Stroller

Not only does it prove that women aren’t just a nice addition to the workforce, but are more vital to the economy than anyone realized, it also forces us to acknowledge that men are quite capable of taking care of the kids. Suddenly the image of men as “clueless, slapsticky, unknowing, babysitter-esque” buffoons when thrust into a parental role will no longer fly.

The jig is up. Men can change diapers.

So as a brand heavily invested in traditional gender roles, how do you deal with this uncomfortably progressive shift in social norms? (Or as one 2011 Ford Super Duty truck ad puts it: men who don’t “have the stones to bring home the Benjamins.”)

One word: backlash.

Or in other words, a well-researched, carefully orchestrated synergistic advertising campaign with a high production value.

There’s nothing quite like a well-orchestrated ad campaign to tap into and profit from people’s burning insecurities. This is one of those brilliantly timely ones that perfectly captures the insecurities of a whole culture.

Ford is the soothing gruff, raspy manly voice that says: Don’t worry, guys. Men still own work. Women still own domesticity. The world is still as it should be.

Good job, Ford. You’ve got your work cut out for you.

Ford CowboysNice chaps. From the 2012 Ford Super Duty Photo Gallery.


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