Ads That Raised Conversation on Women

March 15, 2020

by Jesse Montero

Being a woman ain’t easy. This long-established fact has been highly reflected in media’s portrayal of women since time immemorial. Brands, in particular, would often leverage on the relevance of these types  of conversations in order to draw themselves attention.  

Certainly, there’s been a huge change in the way advertising has recently portrayed women’s experiences. The dominant idea today, heavily banks on confronting unrealistic beauty standards, microaggressions, sexual harassment, and many other issues that women’s rights movements like #MeToo and #WeSeeEqual are shedding light on.

We’ve seen it in how Dove mounted their ‘real women’ campaign that shed light on various shapes, sizes, and colors of women. It’s in society’s double standards as exposed by Pantene’s #WhipIt campaign which tells us not to let the labels hold us back. Even local brand  Ariel launched its #JuanWash campaign to show that chores should be done by both men and women.

This trend in woman empowerment and gender equality is aptly called ‘Femvertising’. As marketers call it, it refers to how advertising makes use of female narratives to engage female consumers and get them to buy their product.

But whether these portrayals are made for good reason or simply just to join the bandwagon, it is interesting to look at how they also reflect how gender conversions evolved throughout the years.

We Can Do It!

1943: The very first presence of an empowered woman in an advertisement was that of Rosie the Riveter.  Howard Miller of Westinghouse Electric created the ad for the purpose of boosting the morale of women who took over the jobs vacated by men who joined the military during the second world war. Back then, women were highly limited to their work in the household and participating in the workforce was far from the norm, until Rosie came into the picture.


2006: In the Philippines, Bayantel put up a billboard along EDSA that drew a lot of flak for its sexual objectification of women. Apart from the tasteless idea, the fact that the ad was for Bayantel, a telecommunications company, only goes to show how out of touch this billboard was  in promoting the brand’s identity.

BIC South Africa

BIC South Africa’s celebration on Women’s Day received heavy backlash when they released this ad which implies that in order to succeed, a woman must “think like a man”.  Apart from the problematic message, this projection is actually an antithesis to one of BIC’s key values which is respect for human rights. Surely, moment marketing promises an increase in brand relevance but this ad only goes to show how content still matters, more than the moment.


2017: Pepsi released a commercial that attempted to show “a global message of unity, peace and understanding”; but with Kendall Jenner as the face of the resistance,  it only portrayed white privilege in action. A white, privileged women  assumes her role in the resistance but fails to bring other women alongside her, as shown by how she just left her stylist behind who is a woman of color. The ad presents itself even more in poor taste because certainly, resolving the #BlackLivesMatter movement isn’t as easy as handing over a can of pepsi to a policeman. Pepsi then turned down their campaign after receiving heavy backlash and apologized for “missing the mark”.

Ariel’s #AhonPinay

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Ariel’s #AhonPinay campaign for Women’s Month went deeply personal as it portrayed societal expectations imposed on women. The ad’s critique of offensive statements like “Kailan ka ba ikakasal? Hindi na ba siya nahihiya? Ano sasabihin ng magulang niya?”   goes to show how women in the Philippines are now rising up against double standards.

Nike’s HyperCourt For Her

Recently, Nike launched their HyperCourt For Her program for Women’s month which  gives women basketball players and enthusiasts to access drill and training programs by renowned athletes for free. Maya Moore, one of the best players in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) is depicted on the court’s mural. , Apart from being lauded for opening up an opportunity for women in sports, the ad consolidates female empowerment and eradication of gender stereotypes. This only goes to show how things are starting to look up for women in 2019 as its celebrates their capabilities, in a male-dominated sport.

Gone are the days when going hardsell was the sure way to go. Now, brands have found glory in leveraging on what may be considered as ‘non-traditional’ in contrast to the ‘perfect ideals’ advertising was so used to selling.

The advertisements shown above not only encourage or discourage us to buy their products but also to take action against unjust societal norms that especially subordinate  women. No matter how problematic or groundbreaking they may be, let these ads serve as reminder of how far we’ve come and how far we’ve yet to go in the fight for gender equality.

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