Even with this empowerment theme, however, the ad shows women in largely traditional gender roles. And the “healthy choice” angle is dubious; they’re selling processed food of little nutritional value, not the far healthier veggies, fruits and proteins which make cameo appearances in the ad. (But hey! We’re low-calorie!) It’s actually a little scary that Special K has partnered with the U.N.’s Girl Up Foundation, a global women’s empowerment effort, to provide “nutrition education.” (Will that translate to “buy lots of Special K”?)
Would diversity in advertising help?
As brands tout empowerment and self-esteem, and just being our best damned selves, they regularly attempt to manipulate women into feeling their products will somehow make our implied imperfections go away. And that’s the thing that sticks in one’s craw. Why should we believe brands that tell us we’re wonderful while simultaneously picking at our marketing-manipulated sense of being not good enough, ever? And why would those brands still expect us to see them as sincere?
No wonder so many younger consumers are switching to less expensive generics, most of which don’t even try to advertise to us. Brand loyalty only stretches as far as our willingness to suspend our disbelief about brand sincerity.
Factor tone-deaf marketing on top of the “pink tax,” and it’s no wonder women express disgust with marketing messages. When retail leaders claim that women’s products are more costly because they invest more in research and marketing; and when they dismiss the fact that much of that marketing plays with our emotions, it’s enough to make a woman go postal. (Wait for it: some man will likely say we’re at that time of month…)
Maybe if there were more women in creative decision-making positions, or higher up in client marketing groups, women would endure less manipulative marketing. In the meantime, if anyone wants to know why I’m passive-aggressively eye-rolling, it’s probably because I just saw a “be wonderful” ad aimed at women that seems very likely to have been created by men who want us to subliminally believe the opposite.
I’m going to go off and be my best self now…