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Femvertising (female empowerment advertising) is a marketing and communication strategy used by brands by means of which they seek to inspire and empower women of any age though pro-female messages while promoting their products and generating greater brand engagement.[1] The intersection of feminist


An image from the campaign #LikeAGirl by Always

theory and current societal trends lays the groundwork for the rise of femvertising. It is focused on the role of women in modern society, the evolution of gender equality and changing shopping patterns. It opposes the long-existing trend in advertising of the objectification of the female body[2] and femalstereotypes acknowledged to be (at least partly) created by advertising. The brands doing femvertising claim to strive for the rise of female leadership, benefits on job place and oppose pay gap. At the same time commodity feminism is seen as a tool used by brands to reach female customers.[3]

The term "femvertising" first appeared in SheKnows Media in 2014 and since 2015, Femvertising Awards was launched “to honor brands that are challenging gender norms by building stereotype-busting, pro-female messages and images into ads that target women”.


The starting point of femvertising is closely linked to first-wave feminism, thus the first widely known instance is the 1929 Torches of Freedom march staged by Edward Bernays. To promote smoking among women, he hired 10 women to publicly light cigarettes at the Easter Sunday Parade.[4] Bernays, who was paid to promote the products of the American Tobacco Company, was astute enough to realize that women were an untapped consumer base. A similar approach was used by Philip Morris several decades later (1968) in its ads containing messages such as “We make Virginia Slims especially for women because they are biologically superior to men” and the tagline: “You’ve come a long way, baby”, making lung cancer an equal-opportunity disease.[5]


Ad by Virginia Slims in 1968.

Most femvertising campaigns also reference feminine traits, including a focus on appearance and nurturing and the construction of the ideal androgynous woman: pretty, yet strong; decisive, yet gentle. While androgynous-woman scripts have been used in advertising as early as the 1970s and 1980s, this is the first time large corporations have taken an essentially activist (feminist) stance.[6]

Since the inception of third wave feminism, femvertising has acquired the new role not only as women empowerment, but also as regards corporate social responsibility and corporate philanthropy.[7] In this respect, experts in the field point to three advertising campaigns that were widely recognized as 21st  century manifestations of the new femvertising phenomenon due to their extreme popularity and profitable results. Particularly, those cases are:

  1. Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty was launched in 2004 in conjunction with Ogilvy & Mather, Edelman Public Relations, and Harbinger Communications.
  2. The campaigns under the umbrella slogan of Labels Against Women #ShineStrong launched by Pantene Philippines and BBDO Guerrero in 2013, and “Sorry Not Sorry” launched by Pantene USA and Grey Agency in 2014.
  3. Like a Girl campaign for Always in 2014, with the full 60-second spot airing for the first time during the 2015 Super Bowl by Leo Burnett Chicago.

Types of Femvertising[]

In recent years, it has become a true bandwagon, inflected both in print advertising, TV advertising and especially in digital advertising.

In Print Advertising[]

  • Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty

Though the concept of femvertising has spread out in the last 3 years, the very first example of such kind of advertisement dates back to the 2004 with the Dove campaign for real beauty. This campaign is generally considered the paramount femvertising campaign, with the aim to change the stereotypes of women beauty and offer in its place a broader, healthier, more democratic view of beauty that all women can own and enjoy every day.[8] In 2004, the first stage of the campaign consisted of a series of billboard advertisements, initially


Ad from the Campaign for Real Beauty by Dove.

put up in Germany and United Kingdom, and later worldwide. The ads invited passers-by to vote on whether a particular model was, for example, "Fat or Fab" or "Wrinkled or Wonderful", with the results of the votes dynamically updated and displayed on the billboard itself. The ad soon received an outstanding media coverage and following this success, in 2006, the campaign was expanded by creating one or more viral videos to host on the Campaign for Real Beauty website, while in 2013 a video titled Dove Real Beauty Sketches was released as part of the campaign. The video went soon viral, attracting strong reactions from the public and media. For its dedication to female empowerment, Dove was the Social Impact winner of the 2015 Femvertising Awards held by SheKnows Media (Femvertising Awards, n.d.; Monllos, 2015). In addition, the Campaign has won hundreds of additional awards since 2004, including top honours at Cannes Lions, The Effies, and named Ad Age’s top No. 1 Ad Campaign of the 21st Century.[3]

In TV Spots[]

  • Campaign by L’Oréal “Because You’re Worth It”

The “Because You’re Worth It” campaign by L’Oréal has proven to be timeless since its first use back in 1970s. The claim perfectly embodies the femvertising concept of empowering women through pro-female talent, messages and imagery[9] and it has revolutionized the advertising world, spreading the message of respect and recognition for women.[10] The very first “Because You’re Worth It” TV spot was released in the US in 1973 in the wake of the movements for women rights. It was the first time a woman, rather than her husband or another man, was given a voice in advertising. That woman was Meredith Baxter, and since then, many different celebrities have taken place in TV spots, over the past 40 years, to inspire women all over the world with the claim “Because You’re Worth It”. The previous examples were about companies whose main target is the feminine population, so their campaigns naturally fit with their usual public. It happens differently with gender-neutral product companies like Nike, which started its characteristic women's empowering campaigns in 1995 with If You Let Me Play Sports spot, that stressed the positive effects of supporting girls for doing athletics. Up to now a lot of commercials have been made by Nike; one of them is Da Da Ding, designed for the Indian audience, in which successful feminine athletes show their strength and dedication, serving as an inspiration in a country where athletics has been male dominated so far. The aim of this campaign is to encourage the next Indian generations to challenge the traditional gender conventions, in order to make their lives better for doing sport.

In Digital Advertising[]

  • Campaigns by Pantene

An often mentioned example in digital advertising is Pantene's 2014 spot "Sorry Not Sorry", in which women go from always apologising (at work, with their boyfriend/husband or an attractive stranger) to become more self-confident, with the claim "Shine Strong". This ad has been widely criticised because it puts on screen paid actors who play stereotyped women like the career woman, the overworked mother and


An image from the campaign "Labels Against Women" by Pantene

the emotionally demanding girlfriend, who do not correspond to reality. Pantene's more acclaimed commercial is "Labels Against Women" (2013), a video became viral which stands up against the double standards with which men and women are judged both in the workplace and in everyday life. Powerful men are labelled as "bosses", while powerful women are perceived as "bossy"; a good male speaker is "persuasive", a female orator is just "pushy"; a hard-working man is "dedicated", a hard-working woman is "selfish"; a man who cares about his hygiene is "neat", a woman who cleans herself is "vain"; a good-looking man with smart clothes is defined as "smooth", his feminine counterpart "shows off".The final claim says "Don't let labels hold you back. Be strong and shine".

  • Campaign by P&G/Always "Like a Girl"

Another successful example is the campaign by P&G/Always "Like a Girl" (2014), designed for the U.S. market and later launched globally, which in April 2017 had over 60 millions views on YouTube.[2] This video challenges the often negative meaning of the expression "like a girl", showing, through authentic interviews,


An image from the campaign "Like a Girl" by Always.

how deeply the stereotypes about girls are rooted in the mind of young and adult people. It illustrates also the negative impact of this misleading usage as an insult on women's self-confidence, starting from the puberty up to the adult age. This ad was aired during the 2015 Super Bowl, becoming a social media and viral phenomenon, partly because it distanced itself from the traditional male product commercials broadcasted during the game, so much that it has been defined "groundbreaking" by the social media public. As Dove, Always was also a 2015 Femvertising Awards honoree, winning the award in the “Next Generation” category, together with a 2015 Emmy for “Outstanding Commercial”.[3]

See Also[]

Gender Role

Sex in Advertising

Misogyny and Mass Media

Exploitation of Women in Mass Media


Women's Studies

Media and Gender

Gender Advertisement


  1. Abreu Rodrigues R. (2016).女性化:通过标签赋予女性权力。葡萄牙里斯本大学。
  2. 2.0 2.1 Akestam N., Rosengren S., Dahlen M. (2017)."广告"像女孩一样":更好地理解"女性化"及其影响"。心理学与市场营销,34(8),第795页。
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 贝克尔-赫比, 伊丽莎.(2016). 女性化的兴起:真实地接触女性消费者.美国明尼苏达大学
  4. 格拉德威尔,M.(1998年7月6日)。旋转神话。《纽约客》。检索 10 月 22, 2017.
  5. Shirk, A. (2014年1月30日).酷女权主义吸烟者的死亡。检索 10 月 29, 2017.
  6. 阿比特博尔, A. (2016)."你表现得像个女孩:对消费者对女性化的看法的审视"。商业学科季刊,3(2),第117页。
  7. 亨特, R. A. (2017).销售授权:对女性化的批判性分析。美国波士顿学院。
  8. 联合利华加拿大,"为什么为真正的美丽而战?(原始内容存档于2007-08-16).
  9. "影响者和品牌之间的一种新型关系"。检索 2017 年 11 月 11 日.
  10. "有价值的女人"。检索 2017 年 11 月 13 日.

External Links[]

“The 2017 Femvertising Awards”.

"Which Ads Best Inspire and Empower Women? Vote in the First #Femvertising Awards".

"Nike Has Empowered Women For 40 Years".