By Georgia Zervudachi Graffiti on a Bus Shelter  TL;DR Stop marketing to “women”, market to people. “Femvertisin...

Let’s Not Make “Femvertising” A Permanent Thing

By Georgia Zervudachi

Graffiti on a Bus Shelter 

TL;DR Stop marketing to “women”, market to people.



Seeping into usage at the end of late 2014, it’s been used to describe how brands have been jumping on the bandwagon with the digital wave of feminism that has hit the headlines numerous times in the past year or so (See also “pink washing”). Defined by Adweek as “pro-female messaging within advertising it’s been heralded as a Great Thing, with Always #LikeAGirl, Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches and Under Armour “I Will I Want” being held up as the paragons of promoting a pro-female message.

“Femvertising” may have rapidly raised the profile of the issue, which is great for stats for PTAT (People talking about this), but I don’t think the term is for the long game, in the digital age where everything happens at an exponential rate. It’s been done now. I think it might even be passé and labouring the point.

To me, as a female millennial who is totally unique but probably identifies with every millennial trend, it has become a fad, off the back of a very important and exciting trend. Yes, there is a need for a positive portrayal of women in all spheres of the media and a breakdown of gender stereotypes, but since Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches, I’ve become a bit bored, and lately irritated, by my razor telling me I shouldn’t accept being pigeonholed. 

Don’t get me wrong, the insight is spot on and incredibly rich and exciting territory, I’m just not sure the link to the Venus brand is strong enough to have the credibility to say it. Bare in mind that this is a brand which had “I’m your Venus/I’m your Fire/your Desire” playing in all of it’s TV spots until very recently. While I’m all in favour of repositioning Venus to the more “She’s Got It” end of the scale, having seen the ad on YouTube pre-roll and not come across any ATL support or been targeted by any other digital execution (and I am the prime profile for targeting) it seems unsubstantiated and it’s a bit of a jump, in my opinion. You shouldn’t feel the need to release a video justifying and explaining such a repositioning. Which is a shame, because if there had been a run up of some sort, to build the credibility of the connection, then it could have been so on point.

Always #LikeAGirl Campaign 

Of course there are stories that work perfectly and connect perfectly to a brand’s proposition. But, playing to stereotype isn’t acceptable anymore, and when it is overt, there is an increasing likelihood of backlash.

As marketing trends move further into the sphere of content marketing and the op-eds of the best of the best praise the efficacy of targeting lifestyle and attitude, surely the way to speak to consumers  people has to reflect that. Countless trend reports tell us that equality and tolerance are increasingly important, especially (but not exclusively) to younger audiences.

Fundamentally, women don’t need to be told that they CAN DO IT, they need to be SHOWN that it is perfectly normal. Maybe even challenged and asked “Why aren’t you?” 

Why can’t adverts just reflect the norms of society where women play rugby and where men do the washing up? where women order Guiness as their usual and men enjoy a Baileys?

This week it was announced that this year a new category was going to be added to the Oscars of the Advertising world, Cannes. The Glass Lion for Social Change, specifically “for work addressing the misrepresentation of gender in marketing.” This is sponsored by one of the most prominent spokespersons for women in Business, Sheryl Sandberg. In a statement announcing the award she said:  

 "You can't be what you can't see - and how we market to women is critically important … If our messages to women - and men - portray equality, we will help create a more equal world. LeanIn.Org is thrilled that Cannes Lions is making the Glass Lion a reality so we can all applaud advertising that is more representative of the world as it should be."

Promotional Art for The Glass Lion

I’m sorry Ms Sandberg, but I disagree. By making a significant point to target women and EMPOWER THEM through 30-second spots, you are by definition not demonstrating equality. Give a Glass Lion to the agencies and companies where the percentage of women in executive positions (or in creative teams, or in planning…) reflects that of the industry. Give a Glass Lion to the script without specified genders, abilities, ages, ethnicities or sexual orientations (because it is a Lion for Change, and there are a lot of other Adland norms which aren’t reflective of society). Give a Glass Lion to the brief that targets “ALL THE PEOPLE who relate to this HUMAN TRUTH”. Isn’t that the point of the human truth – that it is something that EVERYONE relates to?

Traditional demographics are easy to get hold of, and you can generally get away with making assumptions, but it isn’t enough to base a bulletproof strategy on any longer. People are beginning to think differently, and while that presents a helluva challenge to marketeers and strategists, it can only be a good thing.

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