How 'should' women be?
Living vicariously through advertising is something that we are all accustomed to but as a woman, it feels like advertising has always told us how we should ‘be’ and what we should and shouldn’t be ashamed of.
At least, this was my experience growing up so I thought I would take this opportunity on International Women’s Day to reflect on how advertising for women has changed and evolved over the years.
Empowerment is the first and maybe earliest theme that comes to mind.
One of the most iconic ads that looked to empower women was Always’ #likeagirl’ advert by Procter and Gamble and Leo Burnett.
Adults and boys were asked to run and throw ‘like a girl’ which resulted in quite insulting actions that were a contrast to little girls being asked to do the same.
The advert demonstrates how empowered girls are before reaching adolescence and how this shouldn’t be taken away. Empowering women and girls has been a strong message portrayed across adverts targeting women over the last few years.
An ambition that I, for one, hope never fades.
Since the Always advert, brands have become bolder, conscious and more honest about how they speak to women and about women.
Two adverts come to mind here.
In 2017 Bodyform became the first brand to show a red period in its ‘Blood Normal’ advert by AMV BBDO. It was quite remarkable that the shift from blue liquid came so late but for me this marked the beginning of being open and honest and talking about women’s bodies and their functions in advertising.
Period ads no longer shy away from the reality of having a period.
An advert that I love that went viral recently was the ‘Frida Mom’ ad. Frida Mom's products help women with postpartum recovery. It shows real lactating breasts which is an aspect of womanhood that is barely discussed in society.
The advert shows a real openness to how many women experience breastfeeding and how lonely or uncomfortable this can be. You hear the voices in the women's heads judging themselves, criticising themselves, trying to hold it all together.
This ad also went on Instagram which was great as the platform has a history of banning women’s breasts. Again, this advert normalises something natural and allows many women to know they’re not alone and that their experience is very normal.
Nike and Jorja Smith
Lastly, brands create content to connect with women and allows them to relate.
Sports brands like Nike have been leading the way with this style of advertising with their body positive advertising and collections.
One great campaign that stood out for me was the launch of the new ‘Nike Air Force 1 Sage Low sneaker’ with English singer songwriter Jorja Smith by Amplify. It was part of a female-led campaign, #theforceisfemale.
Jorja Smith exemplifies strong, young London women today.
Her real and down to earth attitude is also reflected in this campaign and it works as it speaks to young women and girls - relating in a very real and organic way.
Branding has come a long way in how women are addressed. The last few years have seen significant change and the messages of empowerment, honesty and experience are positive steps forward both for brands and for women.