By: Elizabeth Ojo
2014 was a tumultuous year, to say the least. Protests ignited across the globe and human rights leapt to the forefront of conversation. One of the conversations happening is about women’s rights; it’s fitting that in our capitalist society we are mainly discussing this through advertising. Effective advertising doesn’t just market a product; it affects our social consciousness. Currently, we are facing what it means to be a woman in this society. We are seeing the inclusion of different body types become important to designers, modeling and advertising agencies and others who play a role in the creation and marketing of a coveted ideal, the unattainable image of the flawless woman. In December, the Miss World pageant banned the bikini portion of the contest in an attempt to show that the winner is not just a “beauty queen”, but a global ambassador.
This inclusive atmosphere has translated to a rise in the number of viral videos tackling gender equality. The viral video has become a way for marketers to capture national attention and generate buzz without overtly pushing a product. Take Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches or Always’ #LikeAGirl campaign as recent examples. One of the year’s most popular videos features a woman walking through NYC for 10 hours. The over 100 instances of street harassment she encountered sparked a debate over treatment many women receive on a daily basis. And with the surging popularity of videos like these as well as celebrities rushing to claim the ‘FEMINIST’ label – see Beyonce’s anthem “***Flawless” – it is no wonder that advertisers are cashing in on this wave of feminism and creating “femvertising”. This term refers to “advertising that employs pro-female talent, messages and imagery to empower women and girls.” 1 But does femvertising actually make a difference? The stats from a SheKnows survey paint a positive picture. “51 percent of women liked pro-female ads because they felt it broke gender barriers.” And it benefits marketers too. Dove’s sales jumped by 1.5 billion after the Real Beauty campaign and an astonishing 52% of women have bought something because they liked how its ad portrayed women.
In other words, gender equality sells. It has always been important for marketers to consider the ethical implications of the messages communicated through their work so it’s great to see advertisers holding their companies socially responsible.