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Femvertising in India: The ‘Girl Power’ Marketing

ET Cases, 17 Pages
AUTHOR(S) : Syed Abdul Samad and Dr. Nagendra V. Chowdary

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Femvertising in India: The ‘Girl Power’ Marketing


“It (femvertising) may have started with good intentions but now almost every category from detergents to apparels has taken up the cudgels. Everybody feels this is what is cracking it right now.”

– Pallavi Chakravarti, Executive Creative Director, Taproot India

A 7-second cement ad aired on television in India, in 2010, had the visuals of a bikini clad young lady coming out of the ocean and walking towards the screen, when the voiceover announces ‘Vishwaas hai. Isme kuch khaas hai. JK Super Cement. (There’s trust. There’s something special in it. JK Super Cement).’ There was little connection between the ad and the product and had no relevance, insight, functional or emotional connect. The use of Ursula Andress-inspired visuals ended up upping the feeling of lust rather than trust.

Since the beginnings of advertising, women have been featured in ads of various products and were stereotyped by objectifying their bodies to raise the sexual appeal of the ad and attract consumers. There had been little progress in the portrayal of women. However, in the recent years, the age old mantra of ‘Sex Sells’ was slowly being replaced by ‘Girl power’. Femvertising was all around, with messages and imagery of women empowerment and girl’s self-esteem. Companies like Nike, P&G, Vogue,  Anouk, etc., made it the theme for their ads. With several companies joining the bandwagon, with or without the connect or intent to sustain the message of fempowerment beyond the ad, experts feared that the intended purport of femvertising would get diluted...........

Femvertising: A New Genre of Advertising

On the International Women’s Day (March 8th 2016), the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in his speech said, “A woman is above all else a mother.” Also the social media was flooded with numerous quotes, greetings, and messages sent on the occasion highlighting the various roles played by a woman viz., that of a daughter, a sister, a wife, and a mother.

The statements express the general view of the society that offered conditional respect to women based on the role they play in relation to others (mostly men) and not respected based on their own capabilities, values and strengths. The roles had become a kind of to-do list for a girl to become a complete woman. Then they were boxed into the perimeter of rules and restrictions to conduct each of these roles and not allowed to define themselves..............

Femvertising in India

In India, there’s a popular myth that if women touch the pickle jar during menstruation, the pickle will rot. As girls enter puberty, they were introduced to different taboos related to menstruation – do not enter the temple or worship, do not enter the kitchen, do not touch/water the plants, do not wash the hair at least for the first two days, etc. – and were barred from leading a normal social life.

It was estimated that 88% of menstruating women in India have no access to sanitary napkins, 200 million women lack awareness of menstrual hygiene and around 23% of Indian girls between ages 12–18 years drop out of school when they begin menstruating, as a consequence of not having access to safe and sanitary protection or lack of functioning toilets...............

Real ‘Girl Power’ or A Bluff

During the mid-20th century, women were considered beautiful if they had fair skin and a full, curvy voluptuous figure. A fair skin was a must-have for Indian women to be socially acceptable and desirable by men. As years passed, women were socialized to want a very thin body frame. Advertising had a huge role in influencing women what they view as ‘beautiful’. With the advent of software like Photoshop and prevalent retouching technologies, advertisements created new definitions for the ‘ideal’ beauty of a women by portraying images of flawless women with impossible to achieve anatomy and perfect skin and hair (Exhibit VI).................

Assignment Questions

I. Can advertising bring a social change? What role does media and technology have to play in communicating the message?
II. What were the advertising patterns followed in the Indian ads w.r.t femvertising? How did femvertising evolve in India?
III. ...............


Exhibit I: Changing Trend of Advertising

Exhibit II: Ads Objectifying Women

Exhibit III: Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty

Exhibit IV: Women-Centric Films in India

Exhibit V: Femvertisements in India

Exhibit VI: ‘Ideal’ Woman as Portrayed in Ads

Exhibit VII: Femvertising Sells

Exhibit VIII: SheKnows Fem-vertising Survey Insights

Teaching Note Preview

Femvertising in India: The ‘Girl Power’ Marketing



After the success of Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ campaign in 2004, femvertising had become the mantra of success for every marketer. Femvertising had replaced the earlier winning formula of ‘Sex Sells’. With women being sensitized to the gender gaps in the society, the focus shifted to ‘women empowerment’ or ‘girl power’. In addition, as women were increasingly becoming the decision makers for making purchases, they became the targets of every marketer who took up to femvertise in a way that appealed to her sensibilities. Advertisers across the world had started focusing on the content of the ads, rather than objectifying women, and brought in an emotional quotient into their ads to connect with the consumers. However, with companies taking advantage from the femvertising trend, would femvertising’s intended purport get diluted?

Prerequisite Conceptual Understanding (PCU)/Before the Classroom Discussion

The students/participants should be asked to watch advertisements of Vogue – My choice, Anouk, Asian Paints, Fair & Lovely, Dove, Biba, Nike’s Da Da Ding, Dabur Vatika, Dabur Gulabari, Airtel, Whisper – Touch the Pickle, Unblushed series of videos, etc. They also should be asked to watch the videos of advertisements of 1980s or 1990s, so that they could notice the difference in the portrayal of women then and now. In addition they should be asked to watch some of the social ads that were made to create awareness about social issues among people.

Case Positioning and Setting

This case study can be used in the MBA program for either of the following:

a) Marketing Course: Marketing Communications – The advent and growing popularity of femvertising in India.
b) Advertising course – The evolution of femvertising globally and in India and the need for regulations.

Assignment Questions

I. Can advertising bring a social change? What role does media and technology have to play in communicating the message?

Preamble to the Case Study Analysis and Suggested Orchestration

This case study helps understand the reasons behind the emergence of femvertising as a new genre of advertising. It helps to analyze the factors contributing to its growth and how it can be an influencer in bringing a social change. Further, it allows the participants to debate whether femvertising has proven to be really beneficial to the society at large or is it just a marketer’s strategy to please women consumers and profit from it. The case study analysis was carried out as presented in Exhibit (TN)-I.............

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First, it was Dove’s ‘Real Beauty Sketches’. Next, it was P&G’s #LikeAGirl campaign. And then, femvertising all around, including India. Femvertising is a format of advertising that employs pro-female talent, messages and imagery to empower women and girls. With several femvertisements winning awards (Glass Lion) and accolades at Cannes Lion International Festival of Creativity, the ‘Girl Power’ seemed to have found a new lexicon of advertising for the discerning consumer. Suddenly, ‘Sex Sells’ seems to have been replaced by ‘Girl Power’. Several global brands – Toyota, Nationwide Insurance, P&G, etc. – have demonstrated the true power of femvertising with girls’ self-esteem. In India too, several femvertisements – Deepika Padukone’s ‘My Choice’ video for Vogue, Radhika Apte’s video for Anouk, Ariel’s ‘Share the Load’ campaign, etc. – have set in motion the debate on the true spirit of femvertising. With several companies getting on to the femvertising bandwagon, is there a danger lurking? Would femvertising’s intended purport get diluted too soon? What’s wrong with riding the femvertising bandwagon? Are consumers calling the bluff?

Pedagogical Objectives

  • To understand the role of advertising in bringing in a social change and analyze the impact of advertising on the society
  • To understand the introduction and evolution of femvertising in India as a new genre/format of advertising and analyze the pattern of ‘Girl Power’ advertisements
  • To discuss and debate on the pros and cons of femvertising and the need to draw lines between what can pass off as a femvertising and what can still be a part of ‘Sex Sells’

Case Positioning and Setting
This case study can be used in the MBA program for either of the following:

    a) Marketing Course: Marketing Communications – The advent and growing popularity of femvertising in India.
    b) Advertising course – The evolution of femvertising globally and in India and the need for regulations.

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- Abstract
- Case Study
- Teaching Note (**ONLY for Academicians)

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