When initially approached with the news of the protest organized by a group of Siena College students against a road sign advertisement, our newsroom thought nothing more than it being your typical liberal message against an obscure reference to a perceived oppression.
What has transpired since that March day has been a disturbing portrayal of apathy, and in some cases, indignant towards these students. Right, wrong, or indifferent, the students who stood against a kitchen cabinet advertisement for Teakwood Builders emblazon with the words “Your wife wants me,” is an honest and valid display of a First Amendment right we all share and should cherish.
Those protesting say the message speaks of a time when women were seen as second class citizens, when men were men and women were best standing in the kitchen making sandwiches.
However, what we initially perceived as a group of college girls being overly sensitive, changed. Dramatically. Once we learned of how lacking in compassion their message was received by those directly involved.
When we spoke to Teakwood, we listened as they commended the women for standing for what they believed in. We reported how the company only said their marketing effort was a joke to be taken lightly, and that they were surprised to receive such a backlash to their tongue-in-cheek approach.
And, that’s when words rang hollow.
It doesn’t take a well-trained comedian to tell you, it’s best to know your audience before blurting out a misguided joke, especially while used in marketing. Placing advertising premised on a joke that brings people back to more conservative days when it was more acceptable to think a woman’s place was in the kitchen, is not something you want to place a Mo’ne Davis baseball toss away from a college campus – a bastion for liberal thinking. With that said, it’s more surprising to hear someone think such a joke would be well-received, considering the expected audience.
The story garnered national attention, and judging from the statements we’ve received since, it sounds the company is more appreciative of the augmented audience than they are worried about any potential embarrassment. Ultimately, the number of views is what’s wagered when determining the best place to advertise. In this case, we have a private school that estimates a one-year cost for incoming freshmen (next year) to be approximately $50,000. A family that can afford such an education would appeal to any company trying to sell a product, indeed.
But, a fundamental mistake about knowing your customer is making sure you don’t insult them. It turns out this was never a story about college women being too sensitive. Instead, this was a story about one company’s insensitivity to the potential customer they targeted all along. Consider the future graduates of Siena College and the future men and women who will earn lucrative careers outside the kitchen. How they’ll laugh when they buy their cabinets from elsewhere.