Challenging men to take responsibility for casual sex and treating women with respect, might seem like a message born in a post #metoo era. But the trailblazing Pregnant Man advertisement was already causing uproar back in 1970.
Although the ad was conceived at the end of the 60’s - the decade that defined sexual freedom - the image of an apparently pregnant man rocked the establishment. The ‘shock poster’ (Daily Mail) became a sensation that went around the world (‘bizarre’ - Time Magazine) and led to questions in the House of Commons over its propriety. Government advertising had never tackled the subject of sexual health with such bold frankness before.
Created in the pre-pixel era (#nofilter that’s a stage prop beneath his jumper) the photographer Alan Brooking, recounts the story in his recently published book on the 20th century advertising revolution, ‘Who Shot The Pregnant Man?’
To bring the Saatchi ad to life, Brooking entrusted the casting to promising young freelancer Patsy Pollock (launching a career that would include Mission Impossible, Braveheart and The Hours).
He recalls, “We polaroided scores of people in our search for the right character. If the face, and its expression weren’t perfect, the concept would bomb.”
When Mr Right was eventually discovered, he requested his identity remain a secret (hard to imagine in the digital age). But the press had other ideas, as Brooking explains; “My phone stayed off the hook but it was impossible to avoid reporters around my studio, even overnight. They were desperate for every detail of the story—’Who was the model?’ ‘Where did he live?’ ‘Was it actually a woman?’
Since its first appearance on 12 March 1970, The Pregnant Man has become one of the most iconic ads ever created. Receiving many accolades (and often on display at the V&A as part of its cultural collection) it is widely recognised for promoting a significant shift in men’s attitudes towards contraception. And its message is as thought-provoking today as it was 50 years ago.
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