Mushroom Networks Sexist Ad

Posted August 5, 2013

It crossed my mind that the marketing folks at Mushroom Networks may subscribe to the notion that "any press is good press," and by writing this, I'm falling for the laziest of all marketing tricks. C'est la vie. If I'm going to take the bait, I might as well go for hook, line, and sinker.


Dear Mushroom Networks,

I'm tempted to respond to your recent advertisement with a stream of impassioned vitriol, but instead I'll just take a few thoughtful moments to clearly explain why using sexist ads to sell networking equipment is bad for your marketing team, your engineers, your bottom line, your community, and the industry as a whole.

In other words, this ad isn't just personally offensive to me, it's actually a pretty awful ad, not just for your business, but generally speaking.

Without further ado, here's the beast in question:

Oh my! Unbridled lust! Broadband bonding! Yeah baby! Hot!

Regardless of whether or not your target market harbors fantasies of getting it on in the server closet, and regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, workplace harassment, and the myriad other professional and social issues this ad provokes -- this is a cheap marketing tactic, and everybody knows it.

When you're pandering to fantasy, you have to have at least a tenuous grasp on reality. Will a fashionable jacket and shirt help me attract positive attention? Sure. Will a particular fragrance provoke romantic memories and set the mood? You betcha.

Will a patent pending broadband bonding router bring all the girls into the colocation cage?

Sorry, did I just lose you? Yeah, because you lost the rest of us too.

The basic premise of the fantasy being sold in this ad is ridiculous. I try not ascribe to malice what can be be explained by incompetence -- so instead of suggesting that your marketing department is cynical and opportunistic, I'll suggest that they don't actually know what they've done.

I'm trying to think of another conclusion I can draw about your marketing department, and that's the second unfortunate part. Mushroom Networks may have wonderfully talented, thoughtful, and responsible people working on expanding your marketshare -- and this ad does them a terrible disservice. Perhaps there was someone who raised the question of whether or not this ad would be effective or appropriate? I hope so, and I hope you listen to that voice of reason in the future.

In any case, if a resume crosses my desk that bears the name of your company, you had better believe that I'm going to ask them about this advertisement, and make it extra clear that this is not an acceptable way to promote a technology product, regardless of how good it is.

So -- the fantasy sucks, and you're hurting the reputation of your marketing department. Lets talk about your engineers.

This is where the ad really gets under my skin. See, I'm an engineer. I love engineering. I love building things, and I have a not-insignificant amount of pride in the work that I do, and the companies I work with.

I'm going to assume that your engineers feel the same way about what they do. I mean, it sounds like you guys are actually working on some pretty cool problems, and that you have products that are genuinely useful. I'm all for that.

It's a shame that you've made the choice to degrade your technical prowess and expertise by leading with such a cheap and manipulative advertisement. I want to know what kind of traffic you can handle, and what benefits I can get from deploying one of your systems on my network. I want something that will help me build confidence in your engineering team.

But I don't get that from your ad. In fact, I kinda get the message that you don't really care about your engineering team, which leads to all kinds of specious notions. Yeah -- that's a lot to read into an ad, but we nerds read a lot.

I'd be embarrassed to work for a company that ran advertisements like that, and you know what? I love to poach awesome engineers who feel conflicted about their employers. It's a great recruiting wedge.

In fact, if you work at Mushroom Networks and you're displeased with how your marketing department is representing your hard work, send me an email: peat@peat.org. I work with a lot of successful businesses and startups that would love to get their hands on some kick ass engineers.

Now, lets talk about your bottom line. I'm the kind of person who makes a lot of infrastructure recommendations to company founders, CEOs, CTOs, VPs, investors, etc. That's my job. Now, I'm a good guy and I believe that people and businesses can redeem themselves -- but as it currently stands, you're not going anywhere near my proposals.

Sure, I'm just one guy. Yeah, I probably won't hit your bottom line in any significant fashion. I recognize that in the grand scheme of things, it's an empty threat.

But thousands of people in our industry read my blog, follow me on Twitter, and on Facebook. :)

Finally, lets address the issues your ad brings up in the broad spectrum of IT communities and industries. It is a prevalent and recognized problem that there aren't more women in IT, and that the women in IT are often treated like second class citizens. It infuriates me to see professional, extremely talented people degraded and excluded because of something that has nothing to do with their ability to do an amazing job.

Using sex to sell into an industry already heavily stained and strained by sexual prejudice is, frankly, disgusting.

Phew.

I want to reiterate my earlier point that I do believe that people and companies can redeem themselves -- and that I honestly hope that this mistake was simply a matter of not knowing or thinking through the ramifications of running that ad.

This is just a personal blog, and I'm not in a position to ask for any favors -- but please take more time to consider what you're selling when you go through the vetting process for your next round of advertisements.

I sincerely hope that you are able to find a more effective and responsible way to promote and sell your products.

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