What advertising is still getting wrong about women

The ad industry has come a long way in its representation of women, but there’s still work to do around the stories it tells, and the people it hires to tell them

It’s been 16 years since Dove introduced its Campaign for Real Beauty, and helped catalyse a wave of brands to reconsider how they were representing and communicating with women. Since then advertisers have continued to smash taboos, showing period blood, postpartum pants and actual body hair. Women are even allowed to enjoy beer now too.

“The Dove Tick-box campaign kicked everything off – that’s the thing that started the revolution,” says Laura Rogers, adam&eveDBB Creative Director, who worked on Dove back in 2010. “It was interesting seeing how that campaign confronted the cumulative effect of seeing perfect people on billboards and magazines everywhere. It doesn’t go after the obviously sexist ads that we think of – and we can all think of those extreme examples.

“It wasn’t about having a big shouting moment or sexism in its most obvious forms, it was looking at what the ‘norm’ was and acknowledge it by challenging what that is, and how it can affect how women see themselves,” she adds. “So it was not so much about the taking down of the most obvious examples of sexism or objectification, it was about finding those everyday pressures and debunking, reversing them and flipping them over into messages of positivity.”