Targeting Women in Advertising

Targeting Women? Think Again!

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!)

1890s Woman

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.

2 thoughts on “Targeting Women? Think Again!”

  1. Historically washing powder for vessels came much later.Even to day in desert areas where there is shortage of drinking water The vessels used to be cleaned dry by sand and wiped and used again.Then when coal and wood was used as fuel the ash used to be collected for washing vessels.As far as clothes were concerned there was a famous Sunlight bar which was used for Washing clothes. Detergent powder came much later in India say late 160 to 1970.In urban areas coal and wood Phased out and Vim Powder was used.Now it is Vim bar and Vim Liquid Detergent.
    In Indian politics I am guessing that atleast 25% of Seats in the assembly elections and Lok Sabha Elections are reserved for women.There are strict office rules for working women also.There are are now almost 30 % of seats for engineers are taken up by Females.
    This much for Women empowerment in India.

    1. Pratap uncle, it is amazing how much progress we have made just in cleaning products! The women are now getting a chance to join the workforce and make their mark. They are natural leaders and add to the diversity, which in turn improve the company performance. All this makes it worth it to work out a solution to the kitchen and cleaning problem. Education is key to the empowerment of women in India, and India is making great strides for sure!

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