The Empowered Female Consumer: A New Representation of Women in Advertising?

For years we’ve seen the role of the women in advertising evolve; from perfect housewife, to aspirational beauty, we’ve seen high expectations and the pressure mounting on women. The introduction of Photoshop has set the bar even higher for women, as perfection becomes even more impossible for the average woman to achieve. This is largely based on the assumption that just being ourselves isn’t good enough. The role of women in society is defined, and female consumers can often be encouraged to fit the mould.

Despite significant advances in the role of women in the last fifty years and a strong majority of people in the UK agree that women should have the same rights and power as men (89%) why is it that this is not always reflected in the language we use in our daily lives? It is sometimes insinuated that to be ‘like a girl’ is to lack strength – both physically and emotionally. This is something that men refuse to associate themselves with (not showing emotion for example) in order to appear strong.

But recently, we’ve seen a new trend: empowerment. What if the rulebook is rewritten and we change the way we represent women in advertising? And, by doing so, we create a generation of strong women, which will ultimately changing the way women are represented in society?

There are many noteworthy campaigns doing this, with Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty being very much at the vanguard of course, have a look at the Selfies Obsession blog. The current Always Rewrite the Rules campaign also encompasses this movement perfectly. I work with our Ipsos Nurturing Great Creative team where we find the most powerful ideas are based on a fundamental insight that is simple, clear and compelling. At conferences I hear people talk about Big Ideas and Content strategies, but rarely is the fundamental insight the thing that informs the big idea, however this is captured so neatly in the new Always film – Like a Girl.

The big idea is to boost the confidence of 10-12 year olds going through puberty. The vulnerability facing young girls at this time in their life can be magnified by the pressures facing women in today’s society. Just as they are trying to figure out who they are, they face a permanent reminder of who they SHOULD be.

“Sometimes what just seems small, like saying “oh you run like a girl” it’s just words, but I think that’s a moment where identities are so fragile that actually it can be really devastating.” Lauren Greenfield, Director

Always has been clever in this campaign, showing the difference between groups of pre-teens and teens to give a representation of how opinions and reactions change during puberty. Tapping into emotions but pulling back to their big idea. Greenfield makes the point in an emotional way which draws you in, and every woman can relate to. All of us are probably guilty of using language that implies that doing something ‘like a girl’ is inferior, even women say it. But do we truly appreciate the negative association? I doubt it, this language is so engrained in our society we probably don’t even realise it!

What works well for this campaign is the ability to engage the consumer and connect with them on a personal, emotional level. It doesn’t just serve to empower teenage girls, it’s thought provoking and shows us, as a society, what we are doing and how our behaviour impacts others, especially young girls. The brand reveal works well, although the brand is introduced late on, once watched once, I wanted to watch the ad again, and share it.
Pantene is another P&G brand who have embraced this, and produced some powerful campaigns such as Labels against women and #sorrynotsorry. These are aimed at the modern woman, and speak out against gender bias, and inspire women to be strong and stand up for themselves.

P&G, as an umbrella company has embraced consumer empowerment and has made significant headway in the last 2 years to attract a more empowered consumer and promote themselves as a parent brand in their own right. The target audience is younger, therefore inspiring the consumer at this age will change their purchasing behaviour in the future.

The campaign sets out to change the debate, and it successfully sews the seeds for a wider movement. Well done Leo Burnett, Chicago!

Special thanks to Rachael Camp of Ipsos ASI UK for writing this blog. Ipsos ASI help clients make things simply, better. Follow Ipsos ASI on Twitter @IpsosASIUK.

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