March 28, 2017
In 2014 the word “femvertising” was coined at Ad Week. And now, here we are. It’s 2017 and somehow this is the best word the world has given me for describing advertising aimed at women. And although the word makes me cringe, the idea of ads that “challenge gender norms by building stereotype-busting, pro-female messages and images into ads that target women” is great, so I put “femvertising” in the title of this article. The concept most certainly warrants discussion and I wanted you to click on it. (Thanks for that, by the way, friend.)
I’ve seen a lot of articles talking about how the new “trend” in advertising is to capitalize on female empowerment. Ad Age told us last fall that “Fall fashion is on the catwalks, and what's in vogue this season isn't just florals, ski pants and asymmetric hemlines. In the world of fashion advertising, feminism is the hot new look.” The Guardian ran an article in 2015 saying that this trend marks the fourth wave of feminism and that “brands are selling #empowerment to women.”
First, dear Ad Age, I’m here to tell you that feminism is not a trend and it is not a “hot new look.” We are advertising and creating brands for women differently because women have been given seats (we took them) at the table to actually create the work we’re putting into the world. It’s no longer Peggy Olsen saying “basket of kisses” and catching a man’s eye.
It’s Peggy Season 7 demanding her own office.
Second, feel free to capitalize on female empowerment, but please make it genuine or we will see through it. Back it up with products, experiences, and practices that work for women.
To be clear, I have no issue with brands capitalizing on female #empowerment in advertising. In fact, when well done, I get a little weepy. H&M released a video with their autumn line last year that I still watch when I need a little pick me up that utilizes the song “She’s a Lady.”
Audi also nailed it with their #driveprogress ad this year.
And while I feel inspired and empowered watching these, I also have to wonder — isn’t there more we can do? Though I love that the mainstream is embracing powerful women, it’s beginning to feel like pacification.
One of my favorite ads is a simple digital banner that popped up on my facebook about two years ago from Dollar Shave Club. In case you’re unfamiliar, Dollar Shave Club is an online-only company that delivers inexpensive razor blades to men at home. And in case you don’t know, women’s razors are insanely expensive. Here’s the ad they decided to run:
I was hooked. I didn’t need them to make a pink razor or explain why this product worked for women too. I know that stuff because it’s common sense. I needed a razor that didn’t cost more. It worked because it paid attention to the real needs of women and is a great example of a successful digital strategy to reach women.
But at the end of the day, remaking traditional ads, no matter how trendy and approachable, just isn’t enough. We want shit that works — it doesn’t have to be pink. (In fact, don’t make it pink because Ellen will roast you.) It is time for the digital technology and ecommerce worlds to catch up. It’s pretty extreme when I’m pleading for technology to catch up to advertising, which isn’t exactly known for being modern.
Right now, technology is falling short in creating successful digital experiences for women. A great example of this is how Siri responds when you ask her the score of a women’s basketball game. Though women’s basketball switched to a four quarter game two years ago, Siri still doesn’t know this and if the game is in the fourth quarter she reports that the game is in double overtime. (How exciting! And incorrect!) Apple also was late to the game in adding menstruation tracking to their otherwise robust health tracking service, leaving out a crucial part of women’s health for far too long. In 2015, women should not have still been marking a dot on their calendars every 28 days.
Women and men use technology for different reasons, at different times, and in different ways. In addition to creating inspiring and beautiful ads, if you want women to purchase your product, you need to design experiences that take their needs into consideration or you’re leaving money on the table.
How do we get there? We look at the research and continue to conduct new research so we can understand the nuances of how people use technology differently. Here are some things we know about the way women shop online:
- Women take customer reviews into consideration during purchase more than men.
- Women are more risk averse when shopping online.
- “Women have less tolerance for bad user interfaces. It doesn’t matter how cool the gadget is — if it’s hard to use, then it won’t be”
- “Women do more research before making a purchase. Marketers and manufacturers can support this by providing useful, digestible information about their products.”
- Stereotyping doesn’t work. Making something pink is not enough to make women purchase.
I encourage you to watch the videos and read the articles I’ve linked to, but more than anything I encourage you to think about how to bring this to life. How can we make online customer reviews more prominent? How can we minimize the feeling of risk when purchasing online? What can we do to make this experience more useful for a woman in 2017? It’s a win-win that women will be provided with technology that works for them, and companies will be able to capture an eager market with a lot of spending power.