This is my very first write-up in the series on “Women portrayed in Advertising”. Researching for this topic has been a lot of fun! It was, at the same time, an eye opener and very inspirational. My research overall led to one conclusion – It is NOT easy targeting the women segment. Here’s why…
While men’s role and interests have been pretty much straightforward, women have evolved greatly over the years (and they do change roles in their own lifespan). In advertising, women have been portrayed either as the one in-charge of the household, a fashionable woman, a mother, a working woman or a business leader. How to get your message across effectively?
Take the example of cleaning products. Here is the ad from the 1890s. These were the ads that underlined the fact that a woman’s place is in the kitchen – far from even the polling sites. (Yes, women were not even allowed to vote then!)
Following is the ad for cleaning products as of today. In this ad, the woman is shown in a suit, signifying a working mother and at the same time, the dad is shown helping the child. Truly we have progressed as a society and I feel nothing but respect for the women (and men!) who have fought for gender equality and paved the way for other women in generations to come.
Having said that, I had a slightly tough time finding such an ad. Believe it or not, in most of the cleaning ad, the woman is shown responsible and in-charge. Like this ad below:
Is it because irrespective of who cleans it, man or woman, the woman still is in charge of choosing/purchasing the product? Is that really true?
Advertising is only a part of the big evolution picture. It is very much “telling” what is actually happening in society. It is a messenger of sorts. So instead of shooting the messenger, one has to constantly evaluate if the products being created actually portray modernization of women. If not, then you are just harping on women’s equality and the reality in day-to-day interaction is quite different.
Something similar happened when Bic came out with Pens “for her”. Ellen DeGeneres made fun of the fact that by making the pens “for her” you are only showing that the original pens were mainly for men. There are subtle messages you send when you build, manufacture and market products like that and companies should be aware of what they communicate when they sell such products.
Concluding, especially when it comes to gender-neutral products – think twice before you go after the women segment.