John St. skewers femvertising industry in parody video

Ads targeting women that celebrate empowerment are nothing new. Dove has famously used whats known as femvertising for over a.


Ads targeting women that celebrate empowerment are nothing new. Dove has famously used whats known as femvertising for over a decade. Their Campaign for Real Beauty, launched by parent company Unilever in 2004, claims to be all about celebrating natural beauty and inspiring womens self-confidence.

Their ads have pulled back the curtain on Photoshopped beauty, encouraged women to stop dyeing their grey hair, and most recently, asked women around the world to confront their self worth. But lets be real here: their bottom line is still increasing sales of cucumber-scented body washes and armpit-nourishing deodorant sticks. The hypocrisy is that these products reinforce mainstream ideals of female beauty.

Perhaps this is why a new parody ad by Toronto agency John St. is grabbing peoples attention. In a video released this week, John St. pokes fun at branded femvertising, particularly those that allege to promote real, all-natural female beauty.

In the four-minute video, John St. staff pretend to open a new agency, Jane St., directed at selling products to women at all costs. One part of the video shows a model having her pubic hair styled at a photoshoot for fake hair-product Sylk, which claims to celebrate all female body hair. Another clip features a woman presenting a swatch of her Nothing scented armpit odor to sniff-testers. When an actor confirms that the swatch smells like B.O., the woman retorts, Or maybe its confidence. What do you think?

Other funny details of the video may be less obvious. A pink poster hanging behind one of Jane St.s execs reads, If shes crying, shes buying. Another is the companys proprietary C-LITT model, which stands for Core Lady Insecurity to Target and graphically looks like a simplistic rendering of female genitalia. Then, in a boardroom meeting for a battery company, #TakeCharge in hot pink letters is projected onto the wall.

John St. even launched a fake website, too, with more phony ads and a female empowered logo generator. The award-winning local agency is no stranger to these types of parody ads, having mocked its own industry with catvertising, prankvertising, and reactvertising videos over the years.

Has femvertising reached a fever pitch? Brands today are peddling everything from feminine hygiene products to jewellery, cars, yogurt and breakfast cereal with a deliberate celebrate yourself message directed at women.

Last year, consumer-goods giant P&G found a new way to sell Always maxi pads by giving new meaning to the phrase like a girl. In a commercial, adult women and young girls were told to perform similar actions, like running and throwing a ball. Unsurprisingly, adults fell victim to gender stereotypes while the kids acted confidently. Cue the Kleenex.

This spring, jewellery brand Pandora released an ad perfectly timed to Mothers Day: blindfolding children to have them accurately pick out their moms in a lineup of women. All women are unique the commercial reads after subjecting viewers to two minutes of teary-eyed women scooping up their kin.

Most recently, Kelloggs decided that the best way to get more people to buy boxes of Special K was to tell women to own it their confidence (and the cereal). 97% of women have at least one, I hate my body moment every day. Watch to discover how we can change that together, a banner on their website reads.

Taking a look at Special K Canadas social media accounts, you wouldnt know that the company sold cereal. Black and white photos of women posing with empowering messages, such as, The curves run in my family. My legs run on pavement dominate these pages.

Like other femvertising campaigns, however, Special Ks #OwnIt ads have not been without criticism. Some photos seem tone-deaf by empowering one group of women while throwing others under the bus. At least two Instagram posts include photo with text that reads, Ill never be petite. Commenters have understandably been enraged, criticizing the ads as being hypocritical, awful and bashing petite people.

While female-empowered advertising likely works (why else would companies continue to jump on board?), its also becoming predictable and, quite frankly, over the top. Its what makes John St.s video so relevant. Their faux ads the way brands prey on womens insecurities to sell them more stuff are so realistic, its scary.

michelled@nowtoronto.com | @michdas

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