Feminist advertising: just a flash in the pan?

2015 has been the year of Feminism.

Awards have been won, new categories created, movies have been made and it has generated news, sparked rallies, events, groups, protests, even discussions in parliament.

But, is the new female-focused media and empowering advertising here to stay? Or is this just another example of advertisers jumping on the zeitgeist bandwagon?

Here To Stay – Dani Murphy

With the exception of a few campaigns (This Girl Can, Hello Flo), femvertising is a mega annoying fad. John St’s brilliant satire “If she’s crying, she’s buying” sums up just how calculated and cynical the whole thing can be.

But are feminist ads going anywhere? Surely not. This is feminism we’re talking about, not mom jeans. It’s not something brands get to trade it in for a new look. “Ooh would you look at that – misogyny’s back in. Glad I held on to last season’s. Advertising’s so cyclical don’t ya think?”

I like to look at this as advertising’s epiphany stage. You know when you realise something for the first time? You’re running around excitedly, clunkily spewing your new knowledge onto anyone, everyone. #WOMENAREREAL #THEYCANDOSTUFF #EMPOWERMENT. And then your epiphany matures into knowledge. It just becomes part of your brain and informs future thinking. You don’t forget it.

Feminism tends to come about through a series of epiphanies for many women, after all. Whether it’s reading Simone de Beauvoir or watching Always’ ‘Like a Girl’, there’s that WOAH moment: I’ve just realised how downright sexist this is. Not cool. This doesn’t mean we’re throwing away our voting slips and birth control as soon as the WOAH subsides. So, although plenty of us are crying out for something other than hackneyed hashtag empowerment pieces, there’ll be pitchforks at the ready if we regress to women rollerskating through their periods. Twitter is rife with examples of people calling out brands on their sexist BS. We’re demanding more now.

So what then if brands are only ‘doing’ feminism because it’s a bandwagon? We’ve forced them on it –  to pay attention to women whether they like it or lump it – and there’s no going back now.  The best advertisers will have to move on from faddy femvertising by considering women carefully, respectfully and in the new light cast upon them in the last year.

The bandwagon has already left the station – Rosie Lewis

Feminism is defined as the ideology that believes men and women are equal and therefore deserve equal rights. Surely no-one (except perhaps Tyson Fury) would argue with this statement?

As column inches about feminism started to rise, so did adverts and media campaigns portraying empowering messaging for women. As an industry we really outdid ourselves. Stand out campaigns such as ‘This Girl Can’ and ‘Like A Girl’ earned and deserve every single piece of metal for their agencies trophy cabinets.

Is feminism here to stay? I hope so.

Is feminism here to stay in brand campaigns? Probably not.

This year women were the top of the agenda, everyone sat up and paid attention. However, the more campaigns become solely about feminism, the more it will become white noise.

I am not saying we should return to portraying women singularly as home and baby makers. But, it is unrealistic to expect one topic to stay on top of our collective agenda forever. Our world is changing and there are many worthwhile issues that, in media, we can help shine a light on.

So why should feminism stay at the top of the agenda?

If 2015 has helped women feel more assertive, companies change their policies to enable female career growth and worldwide cultural awareness, then to a degree is the mission not complete?

Is it not now up to our new army of empowered women to team together and help others who cannot help themselves? There are many injustices that small communities and minorities are currently suffering. Look no further than the refugee camp in Calais or Donald Trump’s outrageous comments. Should we not be helping to dispel myths and theories for these communities?

When minorities are featured in campaigns it helps conquer fear and ignorance, it normalises the unknown for everyday Joe. It unites people as one. See the amazing #BlackLivesMatter for evidence of this. Or even the good that came from the amazing Nadiya winning the Great British Bake Off – how often do women in hijabs win BBC competitions or any competitions for that matter?

Am I a proud feminist? Yes.

Do I believe that we need more campaigns solely focused on feminism? No.

It’s time for media and advertising to keep breaking down boundaries, but let’s shine the spotlight somewhere new.

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Rosie Lewis

Rosie Lewis works as a Creative on OMD’s very own Creative Team. She is always seeking out inspiration and innovation. She loves sharing her passion with others and is likely to be found writing about empowering, interesting and real communication ideas.

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