Calling Bullsh*t on Faux Feminism as a Marketing Commodity

Calling Bullsh*t on Faux Feminism as a Marketing Commodity


Can we give a quick round of applause for
this event, Women in Digital, Alaina, the whole team. Thank you guys so much. This is an amazing, amazing conference, and
I’m so proud to be part of it. And I just want to start with a statement
guys. We’ve come a long way. Right? Jean Kilbourne, I hope you all know her name. In the 1960s started to collect advertisements. And she would cut them out of magazines and
newspapers and basically just put them up on her fridge. And what she was collecting were ads that
dehumanized, degraded, or otherwise objected women like this. And this: It’s nice to have a girl around
the house. Or this: Any protein cereal helps keep you
the same size … as long as it’s Post Grape-Nuts. And of course, this: show her it’s a man’s
world. Right. These are ancient history, right? I mean, we don’t do this anymore. We’ve come so much farther than that. Or have we? Right? We’ve a long way to go until our ads start
to catch up with the rest of our equality and our opinions. But Jean really was the first to ask a very
important question. Which is: “What is the impact of advertising
on women?” She’s a pioneering activist. If you don’t know her videos, they’re called
killing us softly. You can find them on YouTube. Please use this opportunity to Google Jean
Kilbourne. I consider myself an unofficial disciple of
Jean Kilbourne. And love the work that she does and I love
the questions she’s asked us to make and to ask ourselves. And I think it’s important that we do become
very critical of the advertising that we see. And as marketers, I think it’s important that
we’re able to ask ourselves the impact of what we do. Jean, of course, found that the effects of
advertising on women are largely subconscious. We don’t think we’re affected by them. And yet we are. We’re exposed to thousands of messages every
single day. She found that a lot of advertising that we
see creates a culture in which violence against women is normalized. And of course, as we know, it sets impossible
standards for us to reach. Women are meant to be young, and thin. Women of color are meant to fit the white
ideal. Men are meant to be bigger than they are. Impossible standards. Jean called bullsh*t. Years ago, and she’s been doing it ever since. She tours the country giving this message. But it’s 2017. Right? It’s practically 2018. We’ve come so far, right, ladies? We’ve moved, as Jean suggested, from consumerism
to consciousness. And that’s the dream. To not be impacted by these ads, but to be
highly conscious of their effect. We’re smarter than this now, right? Heck, we’re woke. Right? I’m here to call bullsh*t on that too and
I’d like you to join me on a little journey today as we call bullsh*t on what I believe
is an illusion of progress. The image you see on screen is an illusion. There’s no triangle there. It’s created by the wedges and the angles. And I believe we suffer from a very serious
illusion that we’ve made progress in marketing to women. Let me introduce myself. I’m an on-demand marketer, which is the fancy
word for saying I’m a freelancer. Best job in the world. I have been called an unapologetic marketing
truth teller. Which is a moniker that I wear quite proudly. In my history, I’ve been a startup CMO, an
entrepreneur. I like to work with small companies. And most of my career has actually been marketing
to marketers. Whether it’s technology or services or similar. It’s given me a very unique perspective on
the world of marketing. I’m also a woman. I’m a wife. I have a lovely wife named Martyn. We don’t have kids just yet, but we will someday
And I have to ask myself as a woman, as a marketer, as a confluence of these things,
what kind of a world are we creating for the next generation? But being so close to marketing, both in my
practice and in my focus has given me an immense respect for the craft of marketing. I also respect the power of marketing. In my work, in all of our work, we know the
impact it can have. It can lift companies from an unknown startup
to a category leader. But it has more impact than that. It has an opportunity to create our ideals. To shape our images of ourselves and the world
we live in. And it has a very powerful impact on how we
define normal. Ads, and all marketing sells more than products. They sell normalcy. They define what is good, what is bad, what
is right, what is wrong, and who we are. And that’s a very powerful, powerful thing. So I’m here today to switch the question a
little bit. I want to continue Jean’s work. And I want to ask the question what is impact
in 2017 of advertising on feminism? The F-word. What is the impact of marketing campaigns
that use feminism as narrative on our fight for women’s equality? I’m going to show you a few. … “Is it tough competing in a man’s world? Maybe for the men. Lash volume that speaks volumes. Lash blast mascara. From Covergirl.” …
So this ad is asking the question, can you really be a female athlete if you don’t have
6-foot long eyelashes? Guys, I’m going to call bullsh*it on this,
okay? I’m going to show you another one that has
a familiar metaphor of breaking the glass ceiling. … “Here’s to breaking more glass ceilings. In golf, and everywhere else. KPMG, continuing our commitment to the next
generation of women leaders.” …
KPMG, of course, one of the big 4 accounting firms. Right? Supporting women’s equality is important to
them because they actually sponsor a KPMG golf tournament. KPMG is also the subject of a 400,000,000
class action lawsuit alleging a pattern of gender discrimination. 1,000 women, more than are at this conference
today, have spoke up. About KPMG denying promotions to women and
penalizing them for taking maternity leave. But the ad is cute, right? Maybe we should all say this together. Bullsh*it. Thank you, thank you. That felt good, didn’t it? One more. … music playing …
Be strong and shine. Apparently, liberation from sexist business
labels only occurs if your hair is stunning and gorgeous. And also, you have to wear heels like this
apparently to avoid that. Some ads take on the very familiar fight of
paying negotiation. Have you ever been in this situation? For the record, I like this next ad. I think it’s cute. Let’s watch it together. … “Mr. Kendle, um, uh. I need to ask you a favor. Not really, not really a favor, just like. Mr. Kendle, I worked on the Padstow team actually. And we won the business. I mean, I just helped. Okay, okay, Lucy, casual. Bob, Bobby, how’s it going? You’re looking great. That tie is super sick. You know, Todd makes more than I do. And he’s only worked here for two years. You know I’m also a really great leader. Really have things” … toilet flushing …
“Do it. Secret, stress tested for women.” …
Again, I like that one. We should all support each other in the bathroom
when we’re fighting for pay equality. The problem I have is with P&G. P&G is Secret’s parent company. And they boast an executive team that’s 75%
men. Which is not a problem, but you know that
they win awards for that ratio? That’s an award-winning ratio in our business. Can we all just say it together? Ready, one, two, three. Bullsh*it. Ah, it’s such a good word. I love it. I have more. There’s so many. … “Sorry, can I ask a stupid question? Sorry, do you have a minute? Sorry. Yeah, sorry. Mind if I squeeze in here? Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry. Sorry. Did I ever, sorry, go first. I have a question. Why don’t we go back to the original theme
that we did? Morning, you have a minute? Sorry, not sorry. Sorry, not sorry.” …
Pantene. Shine strong, ladies. I love this ad because it’s just hilarious
to me that you know, don’t say sorry, but please do make sure that you continue to spend
$426 billion every year on beauty products. Oh and still only make 79 cents on the dollar
if you’re a white woman. It masks the underlying issue. It’s bullsh*it, right? You may have seen this during the superbowl
this year from Audi. … “What do I tell my daughter? Do I tell her that her grandpa’s worth more
than her grandma? That her dad is worth more than her mom? Do I tell her that despite her education,
her drive, her skills, her intelligence, she will automatically be valued as less every
man she ever meets? Or maybe, I’ll be able to tell her something
different.” …
Luckily there are no lawsuits to speak of, of Audi’s equal pay for equal work promise
there at the end. But they do have no female board members. Which I just think is odd for a company that
likes to wear this on the sleeve. And likes to spend millions of dollars to
have it advertised during the Superbowl. So again, I say bullsh*t. This is the ad that started it all. We’ve all seen it. This is not a new trend. But it’s just clearly so popular, and by the
way, there are many many more companies using this campaign and this narrative. But we all know where it all started. You’re all going to recognize this. It’s kind of a throwback. Remember? … “Real women, with real beauty. Dove keeps them beautiful. Dove bar free, with every dove shampoo.” …
Free soap, sign me up. I’m ready. This is the campaign that really kicked this
off. Dove is well known for having this kind of
fem-vertising in their ads, right? This was such a popular campaign that Dove
actually got something like 30x the amount of media exposure, than what they paid for. This was just so different than what anyone
had seen. They shared it. They talked about it. It got press. Dove grew from like 2.5 billion dollars, to
4 billion dollars in the 10 years since it aired. I just love that, real women, real beauty. Here’s why I’m calling bullsh*t. Because the problem with Dove is who they’re
owned by. A company called Unilever. We’ll get to them in a minute. Dove continues to do these campaigns today. Has anyone seen this? It ran in the UK. There were bottles, that they put on supermarket
shelves. You know, in the shape of women, or at least
what they think women are shaped like. This campaign got dragged online. People completely tore it apart because it’s
kind of gimmicky, right? In Marketing Week, Ruth Mortimer wrote, “I’ve
yet to meet the woman honored and celebrated by plastic bottles on supermarket shelves.” Rachel on Twitter said, “Dove, I have arms,
please advise.” And Jezebel, “Have you ever been in the shower,
picked up your smooth, perfect soap container and screamed ‘I CAN’T LIVE UP TO THESE STANDARDS!” The reason the people hated this campaign,
or at least the press did because it was gimmicky. It didn’t stand up to that promise of celebrating
real women in real campaigns and real beauty, right? I love that voice-over. And here’s the problem. Unilever, which is Dove’s parent company,
also owns Axe body spray. Same company that’s telling you real women
and real beauty should be celebrated, are famous for those Axe ads. Let’s watch one. I miss these. …
Who else missed those Axe ads? Wait, nobody. Nobody missed those, right? Talk about misogyny. There’s also these ads from Axe. Can you imagine the voice-over the same as
the Dove ads? Real beauty is dropping your panties for a
guy because he smells like Abercrombie and Fitch. In this campaign, they actually reduced people,
women, down to a pair of breasts. This campaign actually got pulled, but it
was men noticed first. And it was literally just a pair of boobs
walking around an office. Same company that’s telling you that real
women, real beauty should be celebrated. Same company. I call this “feminist” when convenient. Right? It’s feminism as an afterthought. It’s feminisim as the answer to the question,
“how do we sell more products to women?” And it’s bullsh*t! Guys, who hasn’t seen Fearless Girl? Right? This made absolute international headlines. I wanted so badly to love this campaign. I wanted so badly to stand for it. It features a young girl standing in front
of Speaking of Bull, the Charging Bull in Wall Street, in Manhattan’s financial district. And it was commissioned by Globe, by State
Street’s Global Advisors. As they put it, “to celebrate the power of
strong women leaders.” I hate to do this. State Street just agreed to pay $5 million
for not paying women as much as men. It’s in the press. It happened a few weeks ago. They weren’t paid as much as their white male
counterparts. This is black executives and women. And they boast an executive team that’s 82%
male, and entirely white. There’s nothing wrong with using this narrative
in your campaign. I love that company’s want to promote women’s
equality. That was like God agreeing with me. I just believe it should be done with a little
bit more discretion. This is a trend that has become known as fem-vertising. There’s even a company that gives out awards
for fem-vertising. That company is called She Knows Media. And She Knows Media is a for-profit, women’s
lifestyle company, who makes money off the back of advertising to women. So they celebrate these campaigns that I’ve
shown you with industry awards. Now in marketing, we love to give things cute
names. So we’ve called it fem-vertising. You can Google the word. There are many examples of it. And it’s when you harness feminism in your
advertising, according to Forbes. In time for Halloween, I can’t help but be
a little horrified at fem-vertising. I started noticing them a couple of years
ago. Just watching TV. I think it was like two o’clock in the morning
and I’m like, this is a weird trend. I keep seeing more and more of these. And as a marketer, I understand why companies
do it. So do you, we love to share this stuff, right? This feels good to share. We live in a very polarizing time. Understatement of the century. And we want to share things on social that
reflect our point of view. And who wouldn’t want to share one of these
ads? Of course you want gender equality and people
not to say sorry and to show each other supporting each other in a bathroom of a workplace. That’s not the problem. These campaigns have a massive impact for
the companies that use them and deploy them. They tend to go a little bit viral. But, when is a movement not a movement? When it’s a marketing campaign in a movement’s
clothing. This is the tweetable moment, ladies. But, when is a movement not a movement? When it’s a marketing campaign in a movement’s
clothing. Only 11% of creative directors in advertising
are women. The people that do these campaigns are majority
men. The world’s top 6 ad groups are run by men. I believe in the power of marketing. That’s why I’m here. That’s why I love what I do. The problem is that I believe that it’s having
a very negative impact on the fight for women’s equality. It’s cheapened it down to a hashtag. It’s reduced it. It’s minimized the point. It’s minimized the impact of the word feminism. My problem is that if you wear this value
on your sleeve, but you represent something completely different at your core, that’s
a disconnect. And we cannot become complacent at this disconnect. We can’t just let companies get away with
it. I want to break this down a little bit. Let’s just explore this and unpack it. Feminism is this radical notion, right, that
women should be treated equally to men. We’re all in agreeance with that. Advertising is a paid announcement meant to
sell a product. They’re fundamentally different things. They’re not necessarily opposed, they just
gravitate in different worlds. So what happens when you try to mix them? You get this third dimension of exploitation,
which is when you take advantage of someone to benefit from their work. So I don’t call this trend fem-vertising. Again, that’s a marketing word. I call this faux-feminism. Because I’m a marketer. So I’m going to re-define it. This is the exploitation of feminism by advertising. And it’s got to stop. It has to stop. It completely reduces the point. It puts a blunt edge on what should be a sharp
point of feminism. And that word feminism has become incredibly
polarizing. It’s lost its meaning. It’s crippled the message of feminism in a
time when it matters the most. Right? This masks the underlying core problem. We don’t need feminist advertising. We need companies to stop perpetuating this
gender divide that’s still like every ad that I showed you requires women to be beautiful
and thin and fit the white ideal. That’s what needs to stop. We have to stop celebrating companies for
giving lip service to the idea of feminism. Because if we do, we’re telling them, you
know what, it’s okay to cash in on feminism. And here’s the other problem, it creates and
perpetuates the illusion of feminism. The illusion of equality. The illusion that we’re actually making more
progress than we are. McKinsey & Company found that men are more
likely to think the workplace is equitable; women see a workplace that is less fair and
offers less support. These ads make other people think there’s
nothing wrong. That we are more progressive than we are at
the surface. Underneath every fem-vertising campaign, even
the award-winners, are real women, like you and I, living and breathing, who are paid
less than our male counterparts, who are passed over for promotion, while our companies advertise
the importance of women’s equality. What about the work that has been done to
date. From Seneca Falls to today. What about the hard fought battles that have
actually been forged. The hard and up-hill climbs to get where we
are, which is still not that far. Feminism is not a new concept, it’s been around
for a long time. What’s new is this veneer of progress. This bullsh*t veneer of progress. We cannot reduce feminism down to the simple
act of buying a car, buying a shampoo, or running an ad. It’s just not like that. Some people call this pink-washing. Some people call this soft-feminism. They literally want to take the edge off feminism. They’ve disabled feminism. I believe that we need to keep our fangs of
it sharp. We can’t be swayed by companies who want to
take advantage of our demographic identities without really caring about social causes. Right? So, what do we do about it? If you’re a marketer in the room, which most
of us are. I’d like to propose some rules of engagement
before your company uses feminism in your ad campaign. You can do so. I would love if you did, it helps us spread
the message with millions of dollars of ad buys. But only if you’re a model for women’s equality
internally. And you can put your money where your mouth
is and support groups that actually help women. If you can hold up to the scrutiny of equal
pay and equal opportunity. If you’re ready to open the kimono and show
us you’re actually good to your word. And if you walk the talk. We each have a choice as marketers. Every single day. Of what wagon, what star to hitch our wagon
to. What narrative to plug into. I work in PR. I get it. This stuff is trendy right now. Man is it in style to support women. But before you do, think hard before attaching
your brand to things that matter more than your brand ever could. That’s a quote from my friend Doug Kessler,
who’s a marketing thought leader. Think hard before attaching your brand to
things that matter way more than your brand ever could. And so with the risk of sounding like a used
car salesman, what I’d like to do now is propose 10 real ways to empower women without relying
on the cheap, gimmicky exploitation of feminism in your advertising. You guys ready? 10 real ways to support women without relying
on cheap, and gimmicky advertising. Number one. Employ them. Hire all the women. Hire them all. Hire women. For the people in the back, hire more women! That’s how you’re going to help fix this problem. Number two. Demand diversity in your agencies and your
suppliers. It’s a great way to fix the wage gap. Give more people opportunity who don’t have
it. In your campaigns, celebrate women for their
achievements, not their appearance. Mandate that when you hire, you’re expecting
a diverse set of candidates. Research shows that when you mandate diversity,
people make better decisions. Number five. Demonstrate transparency in your pay structure. Prove equal pay for equal work. That’s a great way to actually have an impact
on this problem. Number six. Ask yourself, do we have a baby penalty? Do we support working parents so women aren’t
forced to make a “family or work” decision? Number seven. Train your employees about bias. The impetus is not all on women to lean in. Sheryl, we’re leaning. We have to train our employees on our implicit
bias, men and women. If you’re not aware of it, it requires education. Number eight. Pay fair wages. By 2024, one in six of all low-paying jobs,
all jobs, is going to be considered low-wage women’s work. Working poverty is a women’s issue. Number nine. Don’t whitewash this issue. We know that white women make 79 cents to
the man’s dollar. Black women, make 63 cents to that dollar. And Latina’s make 54 cents to that dollar. We need to give a voice to the voiceless. We need to represent minorities. We need to speak up for each other. That’s how we will avoid whitewashing the
feminism issue. And finally, have respect for the real challenge
and importance of women’s equality. Don’t reduce it down to a hashtag. As cute as it seems, and as much as you think
it’s a good idea. Never reduce feminism to a marketing campaign. Look, I’m a marketer, I get it. I like money. I like money a lot. I love getting paid, it’s a great feeling. This is about the bottom line. Marketing’s goal is to grow businesses, and
I agree, you should do it. And you should do it well. So if basic decency isn’t enough reason to
support women in the workplace, maybe this will help. They are the ultimate economic accelerator. Among all Fortune 500 companies, the ones
that perform the best have the highest representation of women on their boards. They significantly outperform the others. That’s from the UN Women’s report. It just makes fiscal sense. It makes sense for humanity. And so, please, know that we have a voice
in this as well. This ad ran on the London Tube recently. Are you beach body ready? Which I say, I’m at the beach, I have a body,
I think I’m ready. But 70,000 people signed a petition to remove
this ad. They spoke up and said, we’re not having this,
my kids have to look at this, my young girls have to see this. And question, whether they’re beach body ready. This has happened in the UK. And so mayor Sadiq Khan removed it and set
a measure that prevented negative body image ads from appearing in the London Tube. Petition. It works, who knew. We can vote with our wallets, as we saw yesterday
with Shannon. We can vote with our signatures. And marketers, we can help this issue internally. I believe in the power of marketing. I believe that we can, and we must do better. Thank you guys all so much. Thank you. Thanks.

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7 Replies to “Calling Bullsh*t on Faux Feminism as a Marketing Commodity”

  1. Thank you, Women in Digital, for having me. Read more: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/marketing-trend-we-should-leave-behind-2018-faux-feminism-martell/

  2. 1:05
    Yeah, I guess you failed to notice that a lot of the half naked people were dudes and, in fact, they have less clothes on than the woman. I'm guessing that you see a gang rape. Well, take off your feminist glasses and you can be more objective.

    Faux feminsm, yeah, not nearly as cool as the real feminism which is based entirely on BS.

  3. id call bullshit on the we're woke belief, too. Because if you're concerned with marketings effect on women, you're still a piece of shit. war on women definitely exists, its a part of the ruling classes war against the people, not to kill them, to exploit them, enslave them. they pitted "whites" against "blacks", when in reality its just to keep us squabbling while they continue to root us in the ass. if you think a white male is in no way oppressed and is in the optimal position to live a carefree, painless existence, or in the least do white men have the problem anyone else does, you need to shut your poor woe is me, victimization exceptionalist ass the fuck up. Historically, the poorer you were the worst you had it. irish were treated worse then african american folk post civil war, because the AfAmer had their strength, larger people than a typical irishmen. they hated each other more than anyone else hated them. thats the beginning of racism. but men are used for the wars, women emotionally are tortured, men phhsically and mentally. i dont see either one as preferable.

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