Why Femvertising is the Future of Advertising

Written by Felicia Sylvendahl

Femvertising – noun

A form of advertising that empowers women and girls (SheKnows, 2014).

The world is an unequal place, especially between men and women, and the gender gap varies from country to country. Gender inequality is said to slowdown the economic development in a country, which is not only a problem for developing societies but for developed societies as well (Todaro and Smith, 2015). Even though the lines between stereotypical gender roles in our society have started to fade away, it is a slow process. One reason to why this is such a slow process might be because although the society slowly blur the lines, the advertisements tend to keep old gender stereotype. To use typical gender roles when promoting a brand could enlarger the gap between what is typical feminine versus typical masculine, which is problematic since it might maintain and lead to an enlargement of the gender gap. This paper will discuss why femvertising is the future of advertising.

Gender roles

Gender equality is a human right, and has been since 1945 when it was adopted by the world’s leader (UN, n.d.). Although, it has been over 70 years, men and women still are not equal in most societies. The United Nations has continued to stress the importance of empowering women, and it is still an ongoing battle (UN Women, n.d.). To empower women and gender equality was set as one of the eight-millennium goals by UN, in the beginning of the 21st century (World Bank, 2012). Unfortunately the goal was not achieved, but they are still working on it through education and empowering women in the working sector.

The presumption that certain characteristics, attitudes, professions, and activities belong to a certain gender is what is known as gender roles or gender stereotypes (Ashmore & Del Boca ,1981; Browne 1998). Stereotyping is in general not only a bad thing, since it is cogitative tool for humans to sort people, which can help marketers to target the right people (Martin & Halverson 1981). For a marketer to target a special group is crucial, in order to succeed. There are multiple ways how to segment the market and create target groups, and to target based on gender has over the years become one of the most popular tools. The reason to this might be because this group is easily identifiable and simple to reach (Darley & Smith, 1995), as well the usage of gender stereotypes in advertising has been shown to attract new customers (Orth & Halancova, 2004). Nevertheless, it is important to note that the usage of gender stereotype in advertisements will have an impact on the people watching it. There is a huge possibility that it will affect how people interact with each other in a society and wide the gender gap even more (Macklin & Kolbe 1984). It is easy to forget that how men and women are portrayed in advertisements actually build the foundation to how we see each other in the society.

Men in advertisement are usually presented in a more powerful, prestigious and dominant way (Browne, 1998; Goffman, 1976), compared to women who are portrait as timid, calm, nice, dreamy, caring, helpless and serving (Goffman, 1976; Shao, Desmarais & Weaver, 2014). Men play a more active role, while women tend to be passive in the background (Eisend 2010). This is how people have been portrait in advertisements for decades, based on the stereotypical gender roles. The reason to why this should now be changed is because our society gets more and more equal, and if the advertisements do not portrait this, the chances are that the society will stop developing. A couple of years ago gender equality in advertisements was raised as an important matter by the European Parliament (2012). The main argument for why this is an important topic is because advertisements that represent women and girls in a negative gender role have a negative effect on girls’ self-esteem and confidence. Therefore, both women and girls tend to limit themselves when it comes to their goals, hopes and dreams for the future. Furthermore, it has been showed that a campaign that drives upon stereotypical gender roles has an impact on the children and how they create gender stereotypes (Bakir & Palan, 2010).

Empowering Women in Advertisements

The first brand that touched upon the concept of femvertising was Dove. In 2004 they launched their campaign Real Beauty, where they empowered women by questioning the body ideal that exist in the society and that women feel insecure about their bodies. The message they wanted to convey was that all women are beautiful, despite their size or colour. The Real Beauty campaign has been very successful and boost women and girls confidents. Dove believe that if a woman feel comfortable in her body, she can reach her full potential, and that is the vision the brand is striving for (Dove, n.d). Since then many companies have joined the trend of femvertising and the number of brands making advertisements with an empowering message has more than doubled the past years (Wojcicki, 2016). Four of these campaigns will be presented in this paper.

Barbie – #YouCanBeAnything

Barbie’s campaign that was launched in 2015, is called Imagine the possibilities and has been seen over 23 million times. It touches upon the topic that girls can be anything; from a referee, which has been seen as a typical masculine thing, to a professor. This femvertising does not only empower young girls, it shows that her choice of a future carer is not limited in regard to her gender (YouTube, 2015).

Fig. 1  YouTube  (2015)

Fig. 1 YouTube (2015)

Under Armour – #IWillWhatIWant

The sport clothes company Under Armour launched their first femvertising in 2014. They strictly state on their website that this is not a campaign, it is more of an empowerment of women and sports (Under Armour, 2016). They have made a couple of advertisements with strong women being the main focus of the video. The most viewed has been seen 10 million times, and is with the Balerina Misty Copeland. It shows how she, in despite of setbacks, is determine to reach her dream. She will what she wants, and she is not giving up, which is a true femvertising (YouTube, 2014a).

Fig. 2  YouTube  (2014a)

Fig. 2 YouTube (2014a)

Verizon - #InspireHerMind

The telephone company Verizon launched their campaign #InspireHerMind 2014. It questions the stereotypical gender roles; how girls are seen as being on the side while boys take the lead. How some faculties at university are mainly for boys because that is what one is taught from birth. Verizon’s message in this femvertising is that young girls should be Inspired to change the world, and not be limited to previous gender norms in the society. The advertisement has been seen over 4 million times (YouTube, 2014b).

Fig. 3  YouTube  (2014b)

Fig. 3 YouTube (2014b)

Always - #LikeAGirl

Last but not least is the femvertising that has made the biggest success so far; #LikeAGirl. This campaign was launched by the feminine product brand Always in 2014, 10 years after Dove’s campaign. This femvertising challenges the perceptions of what it means to be a girl, by looking into the meaning of doing something like a girl. In this advertisement we can see that doing some thing like a girl means doing something less good, it also means to be insecure, and passive. Always wants tochallange the stereotypical gender roles, and change the meaning of doing something like a girl. The brand’s first femvertising video was published 2 years ago and since then it has been viewed over 60 million times, just on YouTube (2014c), though together with other channels the estimation is over 80 million times (Adweek, 2015). Always brand mission is to empower women to live life without limits through trusted feminine hygiene products and puberty education (Always, n.d.), a message that is clear in this femvertising.

Fig. 4  YouTube  (2014c)

Fig. 4 YouTube (2014c)

Femvertising is Good

To sum up this paper, a few brands have now been presented and we have been able to see how they have embraced the concept of femvertising, though this are only a few brands. They majority are still holding on to the old gender stereotypes in the advertisements. Men are still being portrayed as powerful, prestigious and dominant (Browne, 1998; Goffman, 1976), while the women are caring, timid, dreamy in the background (Goffman, 1976; Shao, Desmarais & Weaver, 2014). Brands still makes advertisements that promotes the old gender stereotypes, which effect in poor body image as well as the low self esteem (Kilbourne, 1999). One reason to why the gender roles has not been questioned or changed in the past, might be the fact that the majority of decision makers within the marketing/advertisement industry are men, and what boost the campaign for Dove was the fact that their campaign was actually made by women.

Pressure should be put on brands to make advertisements that are more empowering, and stop promoting the old gender roles. To blur the lines between stereotypical gender roles is trendy; it was even nominated as one of the top 10 global consumer trends of 2016 (Kasriel-Alexander, 2016). Since advertisements have the power of delivering messages, it is possible that if it does not change, then advertisements might work against development of gender equality (Tsai, 2010). Though, this is not only a matter of reaching a more equal society, it is also a matter of branding. What has been showed is that femvertising is 80% more likely to be liked, shared, or commented on in social media, compared to normal advertising, among women in the age of 18-34 years (Google Consumer Survey, 2016 cited in Wojcicki, 2016). Lastly, more than 50% has bought a brand because they liked how women were portrait in the advertising (SheKnows, 2014). At this point, if someone is still unsure about why femvertising is the future, take a look at the clear summary bellow.

5 Reasons to Why Femvertising is the Future of Advertising

1.     Trendy

2.     The target group are frequent social media users, which means that they will share the clip

3.     Importance of gender equality

4.     Increased brand equity

5.     Increased sales



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