The mission of a magazine cover is to jump out of the crowded newsstand and instantly grab your heart, mind or gut with just a photo and a headline. Well, it's mission uber-accomplished for the May 10 issue of Time Magazine, which promoted a story on "attachment parenting" with a cover photo of a mother breastfeeding her three-year-old son, along with a headline that dared, "Are You Mom Enough?" The cover sparked debate on talk shows, social media and was the top search term the day after publication.
The most effective magazine covers are a unique blend of journalistic, communications and advertising expertise—after all, they're meant to sell. The Los Angeles Times called the cover a "shocking stroke of genius." Others stopped at "shocking." We work the ad beat, so we wondered what advertising experts thought about it. Better yet, what do women in advertising think?
Here are some insightful opinions from women executives:
Ruth Bernstein, Co-Founder and Chief Strategic Officer, YARD:
"I loved the cover. It made me look. It made me think. It made me wonder if the benefits go beyond the child, as to how the mother stays so slim. The cover made me feel much better about the fact my own three-year-old still comes into our bed at night every so often. Look, the truth is, we live in a world where women are shown in sexually suggestive ads with a $2 hamburger and bodies that are airbrushed into skeletons. The TIME cover was provocative, but there's a purpose: a relevant conversation about parenting that real women are actively participating in. Certainly there were those who were shocked by it…but maybe as a society we need to question what we're truly shocked by."
Sara Rotman, Founder, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Creative Officer of MODCo Creative:
"As art directors/image makers, our job is to manipulate the (implied) meaning of imagery in order to illicit a particular response. In this case, the casting, pose, styling and setup of the image create a clearly implied sexuality between mother and child that pushes all of our buttons. How can that not be shocking?"
Emily Heyward, Director of Strategy, Red Antler:
"My personal feeling is that there should be an amusement park-style rule in reverse: if you're tall enough to reach these (even with a stool), get off the ride. But I do think it's a bit irresponsible of Time to run a cover that's clearly going to disgust most people, when (presumably) the article is meant to illuminate different points of view on parenting."
Emma Cookson, Chairman, BBH New York:
"Well, personally, I've always thought that it's time to stop breastfeeding when your child is old enough to pass comment on your breast. Professionally, as someone in the communications industry, it is interesting to see the public divergence in what people think is acceptable to hear about versus what's acceptable to actually see. And I think this is the difference of an intellectual reaction versus the gut or emotional reaction that visual imagery evokes. No one would have reacted in outrage to the headline 'Mom breastfeeds 3-year-old,' but the visual triggers a more visceral, emotional and maybe more genuine human response."
Victoria Davies, Managing Partner at CHI&Partners:
"My view is that anything that starts a conversation is a good thing. We don't live in a nanny state, yet politics makes us feel like we do. Society puts so much pressure on moms today to do the right thing, whatever today's 'right thing' might be. My favorite tweet so far is, "TIME Magazine is going to milk this for all it's worth.""
Carolyn Hadlock, Executive Creative Director and Principal, Young & Laramore:
"What's interesting to me is that everyone is responding to the visual, which of course, is provocative. But if I were to find anything inflammatory, it would be the headline, 'Are you Mommy enough?' THAT is a straight attack to the heart. It has nothing to do with breastfeeding. It has to do with making Moms feel bad. Culture has already fed us Tiger Mom — who unbelievably, has inspired many women. Many moms already feel unworthy and guilty on a daily basis. We all sometimes wonder if we're not being Mommy enough. This cover feeds that in a reckless way."
--- The Team