Advertisers Aren’t From Mars And Women Aren’t From Venus

There is no getting around the fact that ads which appeal directly to women make money. So why are many brands so bad at it? More and more companies are jumping on the ‘empowertising’ bandwagon, but when organisations which purportedly sell to women are largely run by men, good intentions can get lost in translation.


We’ve rounded up just a handful of effective campaigns from the last couple of months which prove that female audiences are the same as any; in order to reach them, you just have to listen.

What is ‘beauty’ anyway?

Not all women look alike. Who knew? The advertising industry has long been criticised for selling a single, fixed, unattainable image of what women should look like. But brands and marketers are now seeing the value in acknowledging that their customers come in all shapes and sizes, as was the case with Dove’s award-winning Real Beauty, and more recently Lane Bryant’s plus size campaign #ImNoAngel. However, there’s more to telling meaningful stories and connecting with female consumers than upping the love handle quota in any given ad.

Two recent campaigns by Dove tackle the issue of not how women are seen by others, but how women see themselves. Dove France’s #OneBeautifulThought video takes the negative thoughts that women have about themselves, and puts them in the mouths of actresses. The idea being, of course, that the criticisms you have of your own insecurities are even more hurtful when you hear them targeted at somebody else. By voicing these thoughts, #OneBeautifulThought encourages women to be kinder to themselves.

The ‘Choose Beautiful’ campaign further demonstrates how women’s self-image needs to be addressed in the media. In cities all over the world, two signs were erected over two entrances to shopping malls. One read ‘Beautiful’, the other ‘Average’. Watch the clip below to see how many shoppers deliberated before finally choosing which door to use.

Tapping into the ‘silver economy’

At Advertising Week Europe last month, broadcaster Janet Street-Porter criticised the widely loved “This Girl Can” sports and fitness campaign, saying it excluded older women. And while a great many ads could be accused of ageism, ironically it is the image-obsessed world of fashion which appears to be embracing older models. Saint Laurent’s recent campaign featured 71 year old music icon Joni Mitchell, while Marc Jacobs Beauty have nabbed Jessica Lange as their new spokesmodel. Lange has famously defied the ageism of Hollywood, enjoying lead roles in four instalments of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story and cementing her legacy in pop culture.

Other such campaigns include 71 year old screen legend Catherine Deneuve for Louis Vuitton, and 80 year old author Joan Didion for Céline. L’Oreal’s latest spokeswomen include 69 year old Helen Mirren, and 65 year old model Twiggy, who has incidentally been the face of UK department store Marks & Spencer for years.

Targeting older women goes beyond pandering; it is simply good business. According to estimates by consulting firm A.T. Kearney, the over-60s consumer population could grow to as much as 2 billion by 2050. “There’s a growing awareness of the influence of older women as consumers and the purchasing power that they have,” Jenny Darroch, Professor of Marketing at Claremont University, told AdWeek. “Brands are recognising that this demographic is an important one.”

Driving change

The portrayal of women in advertising isn’t just about selling soap and going viral with the feel-good factor. Depictions of women in leadership roles can lead to more women taking these positions in the real world. It is worth noting that Big Four accounting firm KPMG’s first TV campaign in a full decade is in aid of two female-centric events; the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit.

“This is a critical business initiative for us,” says KPMG International’s global chairman John Veihmeyer. “This tournament and this external visibility is such a natural outgrowth of a large number of things we’ve been doing internally over a number of years to sustain and continue to build a solid culture of inclusion.” In our final spot, golf pro Stacy Lewis shatters the glass ceiling with a killer swing.


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