Viral Success Gone Two-Fold: ’Femvertising’ Ads Empower and Exploit

Move over, objectification of women. Ads that celebrate feminine power are on the rise. Over the past couple years, we’ve seen them swarm: Always’ “Like a Girl” shows the damage caused by stereotypes that girls are inferior. Under Armour’s “I Will What I Want” campaign celebrates the determination and accomplishments of a ballerina told she had the “wrong body” for ballet. Verizon’s “Inspire Her Mind” campaign dives into what happen’s in a young girl’s mind when you tell her she’s pretty. And adversely so, Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” campaign tells women they are, in fact, even more beautiful than they think.

But no matter their approach to feminine advocacy: all have gone viral.

There is no denying that ‘Femvertising’ is well-received amongst our population. As Huffington Post’s pole reveals “51 percent of women [..] like pro-female ads because they believe they break down gender-equality barriers, and 71 percent […] think brands should be responsible for using advertising to promote positive messages to women and girls. The survey also showed that ‘femvertising’ pays off for brands — 52 percent of women […] had purchased a product because they liked the way the ads portrayed women.”

Though widely successful for their feminine support, many of these campaigns have been subject to the criticism that they prey on the insecurities of women just to further sales for their brands. And with the trend’s success so clear: there’s a chance brands might stretch to embrace pro-woman themes with messaging that is more exploitative than authentic.

In response to this back and forth, Toronto advertising agency, John’s St. created a parody campaign, commenting on the trending use of female empowerment in advertising and the ways in which it may ironically be exhausting the power of feminine self-acceptance and celebration as it aims to sell.

The video, along with their website does a great job illustrating the possible overuse of the trending themes down to the tiniest details such as the feminine flip on the McDonald’s M, the reverse emotional training for men, or the or “C-LITT” model of advertising to women, which exposes “the most sensitive area for a message of empowerment.”

As with any trend in successful advertising, we have to admit: what goes viral has the potential to both empower and exploit. And these vastly popular trends, like ‘Femvertising’, are here to stay. Whether we agree with the messages of such trends or not, as marketers and consumers, our attention is bound to be brought to them for many reasons. John St.’s brilliant campaign and other parody videos bring light to the potential controversy and reminds us that whether we are marketers or consumers, we should pay attention to the fine line between simple profiteering and authentic support.

Read more of our thoughts on some of the mentioned trends and campaigns here and here.
This story via Adweek and Huffington Post.