Ads That Tell a Truth

Advertising to women.

The March 2016 Gallup poll reported that a whopping 84% of American’s disapprove of the way Congress does its job.  Phew, what a relief.  Finally, an occupation that fares worse than advertising professionals.

It’s understandable.  Back in the day, ad men (and women) leveraged deep seated insecurities to create mass markets.  As early as the 1920s, Listerine warned,  “No matter how charming you may be or how fond of you your friends are, you cannot expect them to put up with halitosis (unpleasant breath) forever.  They may be nice to you – but it is an effort.”

Products were sold as remedies to concerns that might not have even occurred to us…yet.  Women were often the target given their role as chief executive officer of household purchases.  Clairol told us our hair color wasn’t attractive enough.  Coppertone told us our skin wasn’t dark enough.  Nadinola told us our skin wasn’t light enough, and it used mercury to help women of color achieve brighter, lighter complexions.

By my, anecdotal, accounting, today’s communications professionals have turned that trend on its naturally-greying head.  Sure, we still tap into raw emotion to create action.  But now, new movements based on emotional truths are allowing women and minorities (and minority women) to honor thy-selves.  ADWEEK recently reported, “We’ve seen some brave advertisers portray women and girls in a new light, one focused on breaking down stereotypes, rather than reinforcing them…Women are being encouraged, celebrated, held up not for how they look but for what they can accomplish.”

Not surprisingly, Nike helped usher in this era of honesty.  #BetterForIt is their new women’s campaign that inspires us to overcome self-doubt.  Dove’s Real Beauty campaign also stands out as an advertising attack on a woman’s less than esteemed sense of self.

I wonder what we, as an industry, could help accomplish by extending this trend?  What could we help young people achieve by elevating their search for meaning?  What could we do for minority groups that might feel disenfranchised as a result of the current political dialogue?  The answer lies buried in the thoughts, dreams, aspirations, fears, and hopes of these groups.  It’s ours if we ask the right questions.

About Julie Garel

Julie is chief curiosity officer of Pratt Street Communications.

Categories: Advertising


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