DJI's latest advertisement for the Mavic Air is incredibly woke. Not only is it targeting the growing number of women heading outdoors in search of adventure, it also pokes a little bit of fun at gender politics in the world of filmmaking and photography.
Though the level of "woke" is definitely tongue in cheek (and no, I'm also not using that word entirely seriously), a self-proclaimed feminist and rock climber noted on Twitter last week that this DJI advertisement seems to be specifically designed to speak to her, acknowledging her desire to represent herself as a strong, independent, and adventurous woman that spends time in nature, and recognizing the fact that women are a growing demographic for the outdoor industry. Regarding both wilderness and technology, products and their marketing have been historically targeted at men by men; with this ad for the Mavic Air, DJI seems keen to redress the balance while making a few jokes along the way.
Some will no doubt be sniffy about selfie culture (and the ad definitely pokes some fun at this also), but this would fail to understand that capturing moments where we feel proudest of ourselves is not always narcissistic; they can be a beneficial means of validating achievements and building confidence (perhaps let's not make any assumptions on what the main character in this advert intends to do with her photos and footage!). As advocated by movements such as This Girl Can and the Outdoor Women's Alliance, representing women as physical and adventurous is crucial for encouraging more women to head outdoors and enjoy their own capacity for movement.
If there are more (non-sexualized) representations of women being physically active, adventurous, and independent within our visual culture, then, as a consequence, more women will feel that this is also something that is accessible to them. DJI seems to recognize that while there is an abundance of imagery of elite female athletes achieving amazing feats of strength and bravery, there is still a need for more imagery of everyday women having their own valuable experiences.
It's interesting to look at this in the context of the evolution of advertising. Historically, this is an industry dominated by men; creative directors are overwhelmingly male, as are the photographers that they direct. As Jill Greenberg observed in a recent TEDx Talk, "Those who are paid to create the images that shape our culture have real power." The vast majority of images are initiated by men, shot by men, edited by men, and published by men. Given that visual culture has a huge role in determining how we spend both our time and our money, is it time to start making changes to redress that balance? This will come about as a result of pressure from advocates, but also simply due to the fact that women's buying power is increasingly being recognized.
As Greenberg notes, 85 percent of purchases are made by women and yet 91 percent of women say that advertisers don't understand them. Perhaps DJI is one of the few technology companies to realize that their marketing can appeal to men and women equally. They are clearly a huge step ahead of Nikon who last year, as part of the ad campaign to launch the D850, chose to champion 32 photographers, all of whom were male. If the visual culture of our industry repeatedly reinforces the message that photography is a male profession, it stands to reason that it will continue to be dominated by men. In the coming years, the industry may evolve, reflecting improved gender parity seen in society more broadly.
While many of us want to believe that it's our hard work and talent that will bring us success as photographers and filmmakers, it's worth considering that the creative industries are not a meritocracy. Very often, it's about contacts and privilege, and perhaps also deeply ingrained assumptions (and not just from men) about what women can and can't — or should and shouldn't — do. Advertisements like those produced by DJI might be a small sign that change is upon us.