A New Truth in Women’s Advertising

Globally, women represent $20 trillion in purchasing power and are typically the primary decision makers for everything from cars to household items. Yet female-targeted ads are falling short, alienating rather than connecting with women. Canadian ad agency Marketel recently commissioned a research survey where they identified the top 8 women’s advertising fails:

1. Underestimating women’s intelligence.
2. Patronizing/condescending messages.
3. Failing to show the company cares.
4. Portraying women as sex objects.
5. Assuming women don’t have a sense of humor.
6. Not showing moms as real people.
7. That only pink = feminine.
8. Forgetting that health matters.

Women’s belittlement, objectification and false perfection exhibited in advertising has long been the subject of controversial discourse. In 2014, it is taking new heights. As the disconnect between women and advertising becomes more prominent and campaigns like Dove’s “Real Beauty” advance awareness of how the industry misrepresents women, women are demanding a voice in advertising.

In the last month U.S. Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Lois Capps (D-CA) and Ted Deutch (D-PA) introduced the “Truth in Advertising Act,” calling for the Federal Trade Commission to investigate and report on the use of altered and photo-shopped images “in advertising and other media for the promotion of commercial products.” While the act would be limited to providing recommendations, it is a first step toward awareness and transparency in advertising. Representative Ros-Lehtinen asserted the “Truth in Advertising Act has already sparked more awareness of the need to address the unrealistic body image often promulgated by advertisers.” In 2014, women are no longer accepting the advertising messages and false perfection of the last generation, they are seeking a new truth in advertising.


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