Advertising takes a social justice stand
Worldwide pressure is now forcing brands to take responsibility for the part they might have played, directly or indirectly, in worsening certain toxic and sometimes harmful messages that may have played a role in violence against women
Two new advertising philosophies are gaining rapid momentum in SA and agencies and brands are being warned: "Fail to embrace the culture to your own detriment."
The latest Flux Trends report, edited by culture commentator Dion Chang, says brands have to take a more proactive approach in condemning social injustice.
He also points to the growth of what the industry is calling "femvertising", which sheds light on previously taboo topics such as menstruation and dispels social views and limitations that have restricted women in the past.
The Flux Trends report notes that "be a man" and "man up" are familiar phrases. The layered perceptions of what these phrases mean has been at the forefront of societal introspection since the #MeToo movement, which has highlighted toxic behaviour and sexual violence in various industries across the world.
This, says the report, is forcing brands to take an interactive and proactive space in brand communication, where they are taking some responsibility for the part they might have directly or indirectly played in worsening certain toxic and sometimes harmful messages.
A widely viewed ad, by global male grooming brand Gillette, was created as a response to the #MeToo movement as a call for men to be "better" and break down toxic masculinity. The ad received an outpouring of mixed reviews, but its impact on provoking discussion was achieved.
In SA an ad by beer brand Carling Black Label was created as a response to #femicide in SA, which has left countless families mourning the loss of their family members due to domestic violence.
In the ad, part of its #NoExcuse campaign, Carling acknowledges the part alcohol plays in contributing to gender-based domestic violence. The campaign included a march to parliament on International Men’s Day in 2017, and the brand also worked with NGOs in communities in Limpopo and the Eastern Cape with the aim of inspiring men to be better fathers, mentors and role models.
On the femvertising front more agencies, says the report, are employing pro-female talent to create messages and imagery to empower women and girls.
The term was coined by women’s lifestyle and digital media company SheKnows Media in 2004. Perhaps the best recent example is the feminine hygiene brand Libresse and a campaign called #BloodNormal which, in 2017, aimed to dismantle the stigma around menstruation that is at times portrayed in advertising. The ad was the first in the UK that showed real menstrual blood versus the blue liquid that is usually used.
The philosophy was also deployed by Nissan, which launched the #SheDrives marketing campaign in support of a landmark move by Saudi Arabia which gave women the right to drive. The campaign is said to shed light on the "drive for equality and freedom of movement for all".
And financial services firm PPS launched a campaign titled "women acknowledged", which is targeted at female professionals and provoking dialogue on stereotypes women face in the workplace.