Women in Advertising - Femvertising
Advertising has been around for centuries, used a tool to communicate ideas and announcements, and to encourage certain actions and behaviours.
From the very beginning, Ancient Egyptians used papyrus to make sales messages and posters, and the notion has only gained popularity since then.
As the world and its media and communication channels developed, so did advertising, where it reached magazines and newspapers in the mid-19th Century, and then moved to TV, Radio, Internet, and Mobile Devices in the 20th Century.
Through all this time, advertising has been used as a tool to change perceptions of societies towards products, services, issues, people, politics, and many others; and a successful one at that.
In this article, we will talk about how women were, and still are, perceived in advertising, and how advertising can be used as an effective tool to empower women.
Decades ago, the portrayal of women in advertising was limited to two things, either her role as a wife and mother with one responsibility only… to make her family happier, or as a model or “eye candy” where scantily-clad women were used to advertise almost anything and everything.
Thankfully, a few years ago, the view of many societies started to change and women were no longer viewed as just wives, mothers, and models; but only few businesses and brands were able to heed the message and act accordingly.
Moreover, and as a result of this perception shift, a new advertising term was introduced: “Femvertising”, which was first coined in 2014 at Advertising Week.
Femvertising was defined by “She Knows Media” as: “Advertising that employs pro-female talent, messages, and imagery to empower women and girls”.
In 2016, She Knows Media conducted a survey [YM1] where they asked 4,000 people about their opinions on pro-female ads. 97% of women believe that ‘ads impact how society views them’ and 90% of the men agree.
Such a percentage shows how important advertising is. It is the tool and channel that reaches every house, workplace, and educational institute. It actually now reaches almost each and every individual due to the Internet and Mobile Devices, children included.
All of which only makes it more important that advertising should start showing what ‘Real Women’ do, their dedication, perseverance, hardworking, and love; especially to young girls between the third and fifth grades, as research shows that it is quite important to reach girls with positive images and messages during these ages.
That’s why, the thing about Femvertising and what makes it popular among women and girls is that not only does it advertise a certain product or service, it effectively empowers women and girls, shows them what they are capable of, and encourages them to accept and love themselves, all the while proving that the brands and businesses doing Femvertising understand the challenges that women face on a daily basis.
And the top brands that women think are doing Femvertising right, according to the 2016 Survey by “She Knows Media” are: Dove, Always, Nike, and Pantene. What makes these campaigns stand out more than others was the fact that they empower women and girls to break stereotypes and not let anyone hold them back from achieving what they want through actually giving them solid advice and proof in their lives in general, not only in what relates to these brands’ products, Dove’s “Real Beauty” Campaign taught women and girls alike to embrace what makes them unique, and to break all traditional beauty notions.
Meanwhile, Always’ “Like a Girl” Campaign aimed to redefine sexist statements used by everyone almost every day… “Like a Girl!” which is sure to have negative effects on girls’ perceptions of themselves and what they can do.
On the other hand, Nike has its own YouTube Channel dedicated to women ‘NikeWomen’ which features its numerous campaigns empowering women to break stereotypes, embrace their abilities, and achieve their dreams.
Lastly, Pantene clearly tells women to not let labels hold them back from what they wish to achieve, to “Be Strong and Shine”.
If all of this proves anything, it is that advertising is a very important and powerful tool to help change perceptions to more positive and empowering notions, not just towards women, but towards other issues as well.
So, advertisers should be more aware of that immense power that they hold and use it wisely. The time to objectify women and use them as either eye or arm candy, or to limit their roles to only cooking, cleaning, and taking care of their houses and families has long passed.
Yes, women’s roles may include all that, but that’s not all of it. They are much more than that.
And as beautifully sung in Nike’s Russian “What are girls made of?” advertisement, girls are made of: Iron, striving, self-dedication, battles, perseverance, grace, bruises, punches, bravery, clenched fists, independence, skill, passion, heart, and dignity. They are made of will that is harder than stone, made of strength and fire, and made of accomplishments and achievements.
This is what girls and women are made of, this is what they are!
Resource of Survey Results:
Written by Yasmine Mokhtar