Since Volkswagen stepped out of the game this year, I can’t write a Super Bowl wrap-up about their campaigns. Instead, I’ll focus on the big standout at the Super Bowl: Always’ “Like a Girl” ad. It was the big, flashy culmination of a year-long campaign. If you somehow haven’t seen it, go watch it, now.
This ad is having a big moment. It was called “groundbreaking” by The Huffington Post, and one of the “Top 5 Moments for Women” by Makers. But it misses the mark on both the feminist side and on marketing to their target audience.
- As Elissa Stein pointed out, “I thought they did a great job, but it has zero to do with menstruation.” Making an ad that creates emotions in your audience is great, but it needs to link back to your audience to be effective. Emotional depth without a concrete message makes your brand forgettable.
- The ad had a great idea, buried ninety seconds deep in the spot: “A Girl’s Confidence Plummets During Puberty.” Always says they want to change that…but how? By selling their product? Is there a charitable side of this campaign? It’s a crucial fact, but it isn’t connected to the rest of the campaign.
- The common phrase is “like a girl”, but using the word “girl” and not “woman” undercuts the seriousness of their message. The other side of this coin is the common phrase is “like a man,” as in “fight like a man” or “think like a man.” The theme still casts women as children and men as adults.
- There are much, much better ads that already talk about menstruation, body image/functions, and or puberty without resorting to schmaltzie, empty platitudes. Hello Flo, Poo Pourri, Dear Kate, and U by Kotex all take frank looks at unpleasant bodily functions with a fun, feminine twist.
The thing that irks me the most is that this ad is still clearly sexist. The concept argues that categories where men succeed are the crucial measures of success: the ad argues that women’s athletic abilities are just as valid as men’s, but in a way that states that male-dominated fields are still the most important categories we measure.
Imagine an ad campaign championing women roles for men:
- Clean like a man.
- Smell like a teenager.
- Dress like a boy.
- Cook like a guy.
This ad doesn’t make any sense. Empowerment is wonderful, but we need to empower people to do their own, wonderful thing–not just prove they’re just as good as someone else.