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Can We Trust Women Empowerment Ads?

Guest post by Katie Parsons

By now you’ve probably seen the viral “Like a Girl” video ad from Always that features men and women from different age groups performing physical actions like running or throwing a ball like (you guessed it) a girl. The ad, directed by women’s rights documentary maker Lauren Greenberg, has been hailed as an empowering one for both genders by proving that perceptions of what women can Girl powerand cannot do are vastly man-made.

The ad joins a growing list of them that highlight strong, powerful women who are comfortable in their own skin, including those from brands like Dove, Pantene, and even athletic-wear manufacturer Under Armour. The ads first debuted online – an attempt to capture the attention of the 93 percent of millennials, ages 18 to 34, who do research online before deciding to buy and who are certainly more interested in the social messaging behind campaigns than older generations. On the surface, these ads are designed to be thought provoking and inspire an empowered feel for women. Are they really all that they seem though?

As with all marketing, you have to consider the source. Always is owned by the world’s largest consumer packaged goods company, Procter & Gamble. Among other things, P&G manufactures makeup, hair dye, and even some anti-aging products – none of which really send the message that women should be embracing their beautiful, natural selves. The same is true of Dove (owned by Unilever) and Pantene (also a P&G brand). These companies present marketing campaigns with titles like “Real Beauty” while promoting products to the contrary.

Perhaps a case can be made for Under Armour and its genuine message of women as strong and empowered. Long before it released its viral ad featuring atypical ballerina Misty Copeland, Under Armour was showing women with fit, not thin, physiques with sweat dripping down their faces after a tough workout. Again though – Under Armour wants to sell more products to women and that is the aim of its newest ad. Is the company providing a public service, or simply manipulating the good feelings of women to its own advantage?

Historically, women have always been a tricky demographic for marketers to corner. Without enough attention to the things that concern them, marketers lose their interest. Sending patronizing messages, or ones with an old-fashioned or sexist feel, risk turning women off to a particular brand forever. Women are important to the economic bottom line, though. It’s estimated that in the next decade, women will control 66% of the wealth in the U.S. No wonder marketers are working so hard to reach women on a level they appreciate to the extent that they will open their wallets when the time comes to buy a particular product.

KatieWhatever the motivation, the latest string of ads that ride the empowered women trend is an important contributor to the cultural discussion surrounding women, their portrayal in the media and the power of their spending habits.

Are you a fan of women empowerment ads – or are you weary of their messages?

Katie Parsons is a writer for ChamberofCommerce.com. She covers small business news and technology, and also blogs about her family life on Mumbling Mommy.

Photo via Flickr/Creative Commons




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