Fem-vertising: The new effective advertising

Fem-vertising has become popular and effective, proving that brands do not have to resort to stereotypes and prey on women’s insecurities to sell their products.



By Maddie Flom, Holy Family Catholic HS, Victoria, Minn.

Recently, “Fem-vertising” has become increasingly popular for many brands. You may have seen ads that promote women and break down gender stereotypes. Some of these brands include Verizon, Pantene, Under Armour, Always’ “#Like A Girl,” and Dove’s real beauty sketches.

Fem-vertising is “advertising that employs pro-female talent, messages, and imagery to empower women and girls,” as defined by SheKnows Media. These ads are important in our culture because they encourage young girls and show them how to become confident in themselves to do whatever they choose in life.

On October 2, SheKnows Media held a panel titled “Fem-vertising: Women Demand More From Brands As Their Piece of the Purchasing Pie Grows.” The panelists were some of the most respected women in their fields, including Lauren Greenfield, Kathy O’Brien, Jessica Bennett, and Katie Ford. At the panel, they concluded that “marketing campaigns that empower women and girls rather than perpetuating stereotypes are proving to be hits with consumers and highly effective at generating sales.” Dove’s sales have grown from $2.5 billion to $4 billion since the start of its Campaign for Real Beauty.

These ads are important in our culture because they encourage young girls and show them how to become confident in themselves to do whatever they choose in life.”

In September, SheKnows Media also surveyed 628 women, with the result that 91% of women believe how women are portrayed in advertising has a direct impact on girls’ self-esteem.

Some of the other survey results include:

  • 51% of women like pro-female ads because they believe they break down gender-equality barriers.
  • 81% said ads that positively portray women are important for younger generations to see.
  • 71% of respondents think brands should be responsible for using advertising to promote positive messages to women and girls.
  • 62% think any brand can enter the pro-female advertising space.
  • 94% believe portraying women as sex symbols in advertisements is harmful.
  • Just over half of those who responded said they have bought a product because they liked how the brand and their advertising portrays women.
  • 46% have followed a brand in social media because they like what the company stands for.
  • Only half of the women who took the survey consider themselves feminists, but 89 percent felt that gender equality is a human rights issue.
  • 75% said they liked ads that featured everyday women, 19% said they don’t notice them and 6% said they didn’t like them at all.

As mentioned above, Always’ “#LikeAGirl” ad was all over, especially YouTube. This ad really stands out because it hits close to home for many girls. We have probably all said and seen others use the phrase “like a girl.” Most girls don’t consciously realize how destructive it is, but subconsciously it breaks down girls’ self-esteem because they feel inferior to boys. This video really made you stop and think how this phrase and others like it are truly harmful.

Another well-known video is Dove’s Real Beauty Sketch. This one also makes you stand back and think. This video, played at convo last year, shows multiple women describing themselves, and another woman they met earlier that day, to a sketch artist. The artist then showed the women their own portrait and the one another person described. The results were shocking. Take a look at two of the seven women’s own and stranger-described portraits.

Pantene also released two ads in a collection of their Shine Strong campaign that stands for the empowerment of women. The first entitled “Labels Against Women,” brings to light the common issue of double standards and the culture of inequality that people accept as the norm. This ad shows situations in which women would be called a negative adjective and men would be called a positive one. One example shown is men choosing work over family are called dedicated, while women are called selfish. Society judges women in many different ways and then becomes convinced it is okay, but this ad highlights the importance of not accepting this norm.

The other ad released was the “Not Sorry” ad, which shows the ways in which women are always apologizing for things that are not their fault. I can completely relate to this ad, as I constantly do the same thing, even apologizing for saying sorry too many times. The video goes on to show women being confident by not saying sorry or saying, “sorry, not sorry.” As the description of the video says, “This video highlights some of the ways that we, as women, weaken our own strength.”

I can completely relate to the ‘Not Sorry’ ad, as I constantly do the same thing, even apologizing for saying sorry too many times.”

Verizon recently came out with the “Inspire Her Mind” campaign, which encourages more girls to get involved with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. This ad shows the life of a young girl who is constantly told by adults to not explore and discover these STEM fields that interest her. They tell her she’s pretty and to not get her dress dirty, so eventually as time goes by, she stops her science exploration and puts importance on her looks and lipgloss. As Reshma Saujani, Founder of Girls Who Code, said, “Our words can have a huge impact. Isn’t it time we told her she’s pretty brilliant, too? Encourage her love of science and technology and inspire her to change the world.”

Going along with the theme of STEM, GoldieBlox, a toy company aimed for young girls who want more than pink and princesses, made a commercial that went viral. This ad shows how the “pink aisle” at stores can have a huge effect on girls, making them think that is their only option. GoldieBlox created engineering toys for girls that are “girly” and pink, while still encouraging their interests in STEM and developing their problem-solving skills.

Some critics oppose these ads. While I would agree that some of these brands could do better, I think their efforts are better than GoDaddy ads or other degrading and sexualized ads related to women. I also agree with many critics who point out that these ads have little to nothing to do with the brand or product being promoted, but I think this is a significant step in the right direction. Yes, many brands are just using this recently marketable fem-vertising idea to sell their products, but, regardless of their motivation, it is nice to see brands empower women instead of contributing to their insecurities. These ads are paving the road for media to respect and portray women in a new and more positive light.

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