How Advertising Can Be Used to Amplify Female Voices

To quote The Guardian’s Cindy Gallop, “Advertising is dominated by white guys talking to white guys.” Far too often, it feels like we’re living out an episode of Mad Men—some adverts feel so behind the times that we are left scratching our heads, wondering how sexism can be so rampant in advertising in 2017. From Audi’s ad comparing buying a vehicle to finding a wife, to Sprite’s slut-shaming “Brutally Refreshing” campaign, it seems many brands have no trouble using sexist tropes to push a product.

Thankfully, some brands are pushing back against sexism and using marketing campaigns to amplify women’s rights and advance gender equality. SexismInTheMedia.Sucks, and yet it is still quite common in TV, film, advertising and other content. It’s time we lift up the forward-thinking companies and marketing experts working to change the status quo with powerful, female-focused stories. Here’s a sample of the kinds of ads that we really want to see more of from brands.

Brawny Women: #StrengthHasNoGender

Recently, the “Brawny Man” mascot and message were temporarily replaced by a female-led message of empowerment. In honor of Women’s History Month, Brawny launched an ad campaign recognizing women kicking ass in male-dominated industries, like firefighting and construction. The marketing campaign was meant to elevate strong women, telling their stories and inspiring generations to come. According to Chuck McBride, Chief Creative Officer of Brawny’s ad agency, the message of #StrengthHasNoGender will hopefully have viewers saying, “Damn straight.”

Ford Welcomes Female Drivers in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia’s repeal of the ban on women drivers was a huge step forward for female empowerment around the globe. To celebrate this long overdue milestone, Ford tweeted “Welcome to the driver’s seat” with an image reminiscent of a woman in a burqa staring into a rearview mirror. While Ford’s advertisement was particularly striking, they were not the only car company to celebrate Saudi women behind the wheel: Volkswagen, Nissan and Jaguar also posted similar messages.

Dove Redefines “Real Beauty”

Dove has run countless campaigns encouraging young girls and women to be confident in their own skin. For example, their Self-Esteem Project, which presents viewers with bodies of all shapes, sizes and colors, pushes back against unrealistic beauty standards in the media. To engage different audiences, their recent “Real Beauty” campaign includes a growing pool of content, including everything from ads to sleepover events to a play. For these campaigns, Dove also uses “real women”, not models, to dismantle traditional and unrealistic standards of beauty in Western society, making their content relatable to a wider audience of women.

#ThisBody and Lane Bryant

Fashion retailer Lane Bryant believes in promoting different body types no matter the political climate or social fad. Their marketing team understands that if a campaign is coming from a genuine place that aligns with a company’s core values, customers will better receive the message. Brian Beitler, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Lane Bryant notes that, “This is about something we believe is right regardless of the time or era we’re operating in.” Their #ThisBody campaign shows an appreciation for women as they are, not as society tells them they should be. By showing examples of real women to young girls, hopefully more people will be inspired to embrace the bodies they’re in, rather than aspiring to impossible (and usually unhealthy) proportions.

The Takeaway

Messages of strength, confidence and inclusion make for appealing and empathetic marketing platforms. Brands that can add their voice to efforts of positive global change will resonate with wider audiences that believe FemaleVoicesGoingUnheard.Sucks. Thankfully, many companies, like those listed above, are using their advertising dollars not only to sell their products but to highlight messages of female empowerment across the globe. These brands know that Sexism.Sucks—we can only hope that more will follow suit.

If your company wants to join the fempowerment movement, a .SUCKS domain like Misogyny.Sucks could be your online forum to promote female voices and stories.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock / guruXOX


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