I was interested to see at the AdWeek 2014 conference this week that they had a panel on ‘Femvertising’ moderated by Samantha Skey, the Chief Revenue Officer of SheKnows. A few definitions if you haven’t hear about this.
Feminism – the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.
Advertising – the act of producing an advertisement which is something that is shown or presented to the public to help sell a product or make an announcement.
Femvertising – defined by Samantha during that panel as pro-female messaging within advertising.
Although conceptually I get it, and support the rise of advertising that shows women and girls in authentic ways, I sit here feeling frustrated about this new term. For some reason it gets me asking why we need a ‘slogan’ to simply communicate what seems like what should be common sense? Shouldn’t pro-female messaging sell without needing a movement? Shouldn’t this be what marketers bring out of the gates in our work? Okay – insert idealistic groan. This just isn’t how it works no matter how much my idealist wants it to be that way.
So, how does it actually work? As marketers we are accountable for advertising within an organization. Per above, this means we are responsible for producing advertisements that sell a product or service or help to make an announcement. Generally, in organizations we are considered ‘spenders’ of money. We work long and hard to come up with ideas that sell, and then to sell our ideas internally to our organizations so that they can get funded to be produced and distributed via a media buy which is again a part of funding we must secure on the inside of an organization.
As we do these marketing plans and work on aligning the leaders of our organization, especially in a world where digital marketing is a predominant force in the spend wars of advertising, we talk about measurement. How are we going to measure if our advertising is working? What are our expectations for return on investment from the money we invest both in the production of the idea and the media buy? In order to answer this, we look to historical performance as a benchmark. How has our audience responded to our advertising in the past, and how much has it helped to sell our products or services? Often times this gets us back to applying what has worked in the past to sell stuff. Generally, this is the retouched image removing some inches around a waistline, the aspirational (read that as unrealistically beautiful) model flipping her hair over her shoulder and other unattainable visualizations of what being a woman/girl (and a man for that matter) is supposed to be.
So, as marketers (and advertisers) we have generally been either creating the problem, or are simply doing our jobs which is to sell stuff. The less progressive position is to assume the latter…to assume that the only way to sell things is to present these ‘aspirational’ images assuming that is what sells. The more progressive position is to change things. To not look back at history to direct the choices we make in our current advertising. Instead, to take on ‘femvertising’ as presented in the panel despite the potential difficulty this brings in making your case in the internal sale for funding of your advertising. This may require a shift away from a direct sales link of our advertising (like television advertising had a direct link!) and cause us to think differently about how positive reputation of our brands will drive sales over time. The work from Always in the #LikeAGirl video gives us measurable hope (48 millions YouTube views and counting) that this idealistic view of success is achievable. But, does it sell product? Let’s hope so.
So instead of being frustrated that we need a new term like ‘femvertising’ to bring authenticity in advertising out, I am channeling that frustration into action within my marketing team. Let’s hope other marketers out there are on board.