Marketing’s ‘faux-feminism’ problem on International Women’s Day

Marketing’s ‘faux-feminism’ problem on International Women’s Day

My new column is live in The Drum:

There is much hypocrisy in the marketing world. Some examples are the ad campaigns that some companies run for occasions such as this week’s upcoming International Women’s Day.

Recently, I visited my old city of Boston, where I spent nine years studying and then working in journalism. (After later progressing in my MBA studies, I moved to Tel Aviv and started a new marketing career. The rest is history.)

While I was there, I met up with Katie Martell, a former startup chief marketing officer and entrepreneur who is now a consultant and executive director of the Boston Content non-profit community for content marketers.

One of her passions is writing and speaking about the portrayal of women in advertising and their treatment within the industry. For this column before International Women’s Day (IWD) this Friday, I interviewed her at the time to discuss what she calls ‘femvertising’.

“We as marketers are operating in a time where more consumers expect brands to take a stand on cultural issues,” Martell said. “And this topic is hot. What brand wouldn’t want to position themselves as champions of diversity and women? We all want to be on the right side of history.”

But she added that many companies are hypocritical because their advertising messages contradict their own business practices that allegedly range from unequal pay to uneven representation to sexual harassment.

“This is ‘feminist when convenient’,” Martell said. “Profiting from these ideals while embodying or perpetuating the opposite is not clever. It’s exploitation. I call this ‘faux-feminism’. It’s the exploitation of feminism by advertising. What this does is to redefine feminism in a dangerous way – diminishing it down to a tagline. It masks the underlying core problem.”

I used Martell’s ideas and did my own research to compile a list of companies that may have appeared – to varying degrees – to be offenders. I also contacted them for comment. In alphabetical order, here is what I found.

Read the full piece here.

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