This study will compare the effects of ‘femvertising’ campaigns versus ‘non-femvertising’ campaigns on Irish women.

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Introduction:

The aim of this research is to examine the area of ‘femvertising’. ‘Femvertising’ is a relatively new term, which refers to female empowerment advertising; campaigns that challenge the traditional female stereotypes often seen in advertising (Åkestam, Rosengren, & Dahlen, 2017). This study will compare the effects of ‘femvertising’ campaigns versus ‘non-femvertising’ campaigns on Irish women.

In advertising, women have typically been shown in more family orientated, and less professional roles (Uray & Barnaz, 2003, as cited by Grau & Zotos, 2016). Since the 1960s, various social factors have challenged this female stereotype including the rise of feminism, changes in the labour force and changing family structures. Despite this, women were often portrayed “in an inferior manner relative to their potential and capabilities” (Grau & Zotos, 2016, p 761).

Today, some companies are taking a feminist stance in relation to advertising their products. As female consumers have increasing purchase power, they are more attractive to marketers, and ‘femvertising’ is a becoming a popular way to entice female customers (Kapoor & Munjal, 2017). An example of such a campaign is Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’, which highlighted the variation in interpretations of female beauty (Abitbol & Sternadori, 2016). There is little academic research on the topic of ‘femvertising’, and multiple research papers (Grau & Zotos, 2016)(Åkestam et al., 2017) have recommended further research in this field.

In this brief, the phenomenon of ‘femvertising’ will be discussed in further detail. Issues and gaps in this field will be examined and the key objectives of this study will be outlined. Proposed research methods for this study will also be discussed.

 

Problem Definition:

Advertising that aims to defy gender stereotypes, and empower women, has become hugely popular (Drake, 2017)(Kapoor & Munjal, 2017). This growth suggests that brands see ‘femvertising’ as a winning strategy for reaching their target female audience. Successful examples of such campaigns are the Always ‘Like a Girl’ campaign, Pantene’s ‘Labels Against Women’ campaign, and Under Armour’s ‘I Will What I Want’ campaign (Åkestam et al., 2017).

Abitbol & Sternadori (2016) refer to ‘femvertising’ as a “social cause”, and note the growing popularity of companies supporting such causes due to the success of cause-related marketing (CRM). CRM is a corporate social responsibility strategy that aims to encourage consumers to engage with positive social practices. One such CRM cause is the supporting and advocating of female empowerment (Abitbol & Sternadori, 2016). Early examples of this were seen in tobacco adverts which encouraged women to smoke. Philip Morris ran their tobacco ads with the line “We make Virginia Slims especially for women because they are biologically superior to men” (Shirk, 2014, as cited by Abitbol & Sternadori, 2016)

Multiple advertising campaigns have used this approach over the last decade, and the term ‘femvertising’ was officially conceived in 2014 (Åkestam et al., 2017). Given the popularity of this phenomenon and the lack of academic research available, it presents an intriguing area of study.

This study will be a comparative analysis of the effects of ‘femvertising’ campaigns versus ‘non-femvertising’ campaigns on women in Ireland. Stevens, Brown, & Maclaran (2000), note that until relatively recently, the narrative of Ireland was written by men. Over the last forty years, Irish advertisers have been denounced for using demeaning stereotypes towards women (Patterson, O’Malley, & Story, 2009) This study will examine the evolution of female representation in advertising within Ireland, from traditional to modern campaigns, and will explore the social impacts of ‘femvertising’.

Themes to be explored in this study include the use of female empowerment in advertising, gender roles and stereotypes in advertising, and the changing perceptions and portrayals of women. As previously stated, academic research on the topic of ‘femvertising’ is lacking (Drake, 2017), thus there are multiple gaps of research in this area. A study comparing the effects of ‘femvertising’ versus ‘non-femvertising’ campaigns has not been found, and in addition, there are no studies of the effect of ‘femvertising’ on Irish women. The aim of this research is to fill these gaps.

Research Goal and Objective:

The aim of this research is to further expand our knowledge of the ‘femvertising’ phenomenon, specifically in comparison to traditional advertising and the effect it has on women in Ireland. There is little literature available on the topic, with no studies in relation to Ireland, and this study aims to add to the existing information in this field.

The key objective of this study will be to compare the effects, if any, of ‘femvertising’ campaigns versus ‘non-femvertising’ campaigns on Irish women. The goal of this study is to determine whether ‘femvertising’ campaigns affect Irish women differently in comparison to campaigns that do not engage in ‘femvertising’. The study will pay attention to elements such as how the opposing adverts make women feel, what themes they see in the adverts and how likely they are to purchase the advertised product.

It is hoped that the results of this study will show both the effects of ‘femvertising’ in comparison with traditional campaigns, and specifically, the effect of ‘femvertising’ campaigns on Irish female consumers. As neither of these areas have previously been explored, the results of this study will significantly contribute to the literature available on the topic of ‘femvertising’.

Analysis of Proposed Methods and Data for the Study:

Exploratory research will be undertaken for this study. According to Sekaran (2003), exploratory studies are carried out when little information is available about the area of study. In such cases, extensive research is required before a study begins, in order to gain as much knowledge as possible about the phenomenon. As previously noted, the phenomenon of ‘femvertising’ has been under-researched, and so an exploratory approach will allow for better comprehension of this area (Sekaran, 2003). Due to the unknown in this area, this will be an abductive approach. Interviews with Irish women will allow for further understanding of this phenomenon, and the data collected will later allow for a comparison of the effects of ‘femvertising’ versus traditional advertising. Focus groups will also be required to provide data that will allow further understanding of this area.

A mono method will be undertaken, and this research study will require qualitative research methods. The research strategy will be relating to surveys and will include interviews, focus groups and questionnaires. The study will be cross-sectional and will focus on Irish women aged 20-35. According to Walliman (2011), qualitative methods involve the study of human behaviours and attributes, including beliefs, opinions and thoughts, and are therefore “descriptive in character”. The richness of such methods can give a greater understanding of human society (Walliman, 2011, pg 73). Such qualitative methods will be used to obtain data in relation to the effect that ‘femvertising’ campaigns have on women in Ireland in the aforementioned age group.

My potential research instrument will include interviews, focus groups and questionnaires. Participants in this study will be shown a comparison of adverts; a selection of both ‘femvertising’ and ‘non-femvertising campaigns. They will then be asked questions about both selections of adverts. Potential questions include:

  1. How did you feel watching this advert?
  2. What themes did you take away from this advert?
  3. What did you think was the underlying tone in this advert?
  4. Would you purchase the product advertised?

Bryman & Bell (2015), describe a comparative analysis as a study using the same methods on two or more contrasting subjects. In this study, a comparative analysis will be undertaken to compare the data collected and provide results determining what effects, if any, can be seen between the impact of ‘femvertising’ and traditional advertising campaigns on Irish women.

Conclusion:

The use of promoting female empowerment in advertising has become a phenomenon in recent years (Drake, 2017)(Kapoor & Munjal, 2017), leading to the term ‘femvertising’ being coined in 2014 (Åkestam et al., 2017). There is little academic research on the topic and no studies have been found to compare the effect of such ‘femvertising’ campaigns versus ‘non-femvertising’ campaigns on female consumers. The subject has also not been explored in the Irish context, and this study will aim to fill both research gaps by comparing the effects of ‘femvertising’ campaigns versus ‘non-femvertising’ campaigns on Irish women.

An exploratory approach will be taken, and existing literature will be examined regarding the phenomenon of ‘femvertising’, female representation in advertising and gender stereotypes in advertising. Qualitative methods such as interviews, focus groups and questionnaires will be undertaken in order to accumulate data relating to both ‘femvertising’ and ‘non-femvertising’ campaigns. This data will be analysed and compared to reveal findings relating to the impacts ‘femvertising’ campaigns have on the women of Ireland in comparison to traditional advertising campaigns. The results of this study will significantly contribute to the literature available on the topic of ‘femvertising’.

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