Monday, November 23, 2015

Perspective - The rise of femvertising || Divya Naik || T.A.PAI Management Institute, Manipal || August 2015 edition


Advertising has a pervasive presence in our day-to-day lives – from conventional ads we see everyday in TV to the new emerging online ad formats; they all play an important role in educating us about a product or a brand. According to a survey, in USA an individual is exposed to more than thousands ads each day .Surely, advertisements play an important role as a medium to drive change and hence the rise of “femvertising”. 


Femvertising is commonly defined as advertisements which endorses pro-women causes and promotes female empowerment. It is trending at the moment with companies coming out and championing various important causes that affect women in their everyday life .This way companies can to show support to one of the major segment of their customers-women. Few examples of “femvertising” ads are the Dove’s real beauty campaign as well as the Under Armour’s “I Will What I Want” ad. In these ads,they are trying to showcase real women with real life problems During the earlier years, the only female target market for consumer goods companies were suburban housewives. 


Most of the ads during this age were sexist in nature with a Kellogg Pep cereal print ad declaring “So the harder a wife works, the cuter she looks!” Fast forward into the mid-’90s, more companies came up with ads which were much more focused on women as the target segment. One of the pioneers of such advertisements was Nike with their “If You Let Me Play,” ad campaign in which they came up with products specifically suited for women. But the major breakthrough in femvertising has to be associated with the Dove’s real beauty campaign. Eleven years ago, in 2004, Unilever’s Dove brand broke new ground with this campaign .It tried to explore how its female customers perceived beauty and used real women -of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds—as the various faces of its marketing campaign. It expanded the traditional definition of “beauty”, and encouraged women to be comfortable in their own skin. This led to the advertising world embracing the concept of women empowerment and producing more ads with real life scenario, especially those concerning women. 


Now such ads which target female consumers have been in presence for a long while now . But in 2014-the year of “femvertising”-there was an explosion of ads related to female empowerment which were well appreciated by all. Brands created ads which were impactful as well as meaningful to their audience. The reason why femvertising gained so much attention in 2014 is due to the power of ‘Social Media’. The digital revolution has created a seismic shift in the company’s approach to marketing. Marketers have realized that a positive ad with a meaningful message can generate a lot of positive social reactions and create new brand loyalists. Companies now believe that it is important for their brand to stand for something more than the product itself. Social media allows brands to be held accountable. 


In the past, when an ad which offended a women's or men’s sensibilities were shown, the viewer had no choice but to either stew silently or vent out their frustration at the TV. But in this present age of social media, it gives tremendous power to the consumers who can tarnish the image of a brand. Advertising which target women makes good business sense. Since women have traditionally always handled the household spending, and make most of the home-related purchase decisions .According to a survey, women control 85% of the purchase. Even after that, most of the companies still continue to offer them poorly conceived products and services and produce ads that endorse female stereotypes. Even though the advertising industry has come a long way from such ads which were mainly sexist in nature and filled with stereotypes, there is still a lot of scope left for change. 

According to a study conducted in 2012 by i-on Women, 91% of women who were surveyed still do not feel that the companies are marketing effectively to them .According to the SheKnows Femvertising survey in September 2014, 81%of the women polled said that pro-female ads are important for younger generation to see. Around 52 % of women on whom the survey was carried out, had purchased a product because they liked the way the ads portrayed women .Also, 71% believed that brands should be held responsible for using their ads to promote positive messages to women and girls . It is no longer a matter of standing up for a cause to portray a company as socially responsible. But it is a matter of positively supporting the consumer whose loyalty they seek. There is strong indication that women are looking to support those brands which represent them more realistically.


Femvertising is actually effective as it not only sends out a positive message but also helps increase the company’s revenues. Various pro-woman ad campaigns has resulted in improving the company’s bottom-line. Dove‘s Real Beauty campaign, which was started way back in 2004 has been credited in part for the increase in the company’s revenue to $4.5 billion from $2 billion. Nike also saw an increase of 15% in its quarterly revenue after they started catering to their women customers3. With women controlling majority of purchase decision and also the positive sales responses we see to these ad campaigns, it is logical that companies would opt for femvertising. But that is not the case, with pro-female ads forming just a small share of the millions of advertisements that are produced every year. One of the reasons for this maybe the fact that the advertisement industry is largely led by men and only 3% of creative directors are women .So, there is a need for more women workforce in advertisement industry. 

An emphasis on women as a target market—understanding and fulfilling women’s needs might help the company differentiate itself from the rest and this might be the key to their breakout growth, improve their loyal customer base and also help increase their market share. Once the companies realize the potential of the female economy, they will explore a whole new range of commercial business prospects that would serve the women’s needs. 

According to a study, women purchase products and services from companies that try and do well for the world-especially for other women. Brands which promote emotional as well as the physical well-being- whether directly or indirectly protect the environment, take initiative to provide education and care for the needy will benefit and form a strong, deep connection with their women customers. With the increase in their purchase power, women are no longer ready to compromise and settle for products which fails to fully meet their requirements .Women have gradually started resisting being stereotyped; they want the companies to know that they all are different and they can’t be lumped together into “all women” category. 

One good thing about the femvertising ads is that on one hand they inspire and empower women but at the same time they aren’t alienating the male population; the movement impacts the men positively. Men are interested in making sure that their women and girls are empowered, have a healthy body image. Many pro-women ads such as Dove’s or Pantene’s have been highly appreciated by men, with them praising the brands for their efforts. Feminism is surely having a moment right now. Even celebrities are openly admitting to their feminist beliefs. It is very easy for the companies to be fascinated by the appeal of “capitalizing” on a new trend. Marketing to women by championing the feminist ideals has never been more timely than right now. But the marketeers need to be careful regarding this particular proposition and treat it very carefully. While bringing feminist issues to the forefront is definitely a positive approach, it does have a significant risk if the brand isn’t genuine about it.They need to understand the nuances behind these issues. Their attempts to portray themselves as pro-feminism might backfire. 

Women do have plenty of purchasing power, a fact that was till recently ignored by the companies .But in appealing so openly to the power of that group, so that they can sell more product, companies are taking the risk of turning women off completely towards the company’s efforts. Also the ads should have a relation with what value proposition the company offers to its customers. If they don’t, then that the campaign won’t be that much of a success. One such company, which produces shampoos, championed the cause of women empowerment but its consumers couldn’t relate to the ad campaign. It is a tough balance to strike —the message that a brand is spreading through its campaign should be perfectly aligned with what it’s selling. Companies spreading these empowering messages through their ads need to walk the walk and talk the talk, by initiating programs that can help women and girls; make them more empowered. Dove, who’s Campaign was one of the first mainstream femvertising ad campaigns, has partnered with organizations such as the Girl Scouts and Girls Inc., which offers program that helps build a girl's self-esteem.

Women will support companies that are genuine in their efforts to support other women. Brand which use feminism just to promote their products without any genuine interest in the subject might face backlash. Inauthentic support cheapens the idea of women’s equality, and that is dangerous to the feminist movement itself. Regardless of how one feels about brands using pro-feminist messages in their advertisements, ”femvertising” is trending right now and it doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon . Femvertising is here to stay

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