written by: Sylvia Joyce Lam

Women’s advertising with campaigns with ad messages supporting female rights and gender equality are getting popular in the last decade. Three recent international brands campaigns (Dove, Always & Nike) are chosen for comparison to showcase how brand marketers are communication their specific brand values to women. The latest NIKE women “Surprise by me” campaign in Japan is highlighted for its outstanding use of symbolization.

Dove’s latest Real Beauty campaign (#RealBeauty Is Universal), communicates that beauty should not be stereotype to any one form. The ad features of women of different race, age, styles and looks; with a key message of “Celebrate all types of beauty” on screen.

Always’ latest (#Like A Girl) campaign “Keep Playing” features girls in their puberty talking about why they play or quit sports. The key message is to encourage young girls not to quit playing sports just because they are girls, and play (sports) like a girl is not a humiliation.

The NIKE Japan “Surprise by me” campaign features women working out but with lots of strings tied to their back symbolizing limitations of women to engage in various vigorous physical exercise. They all break away from the strings at the end and keep working out with content, symbolizing we could all be surprised with what we could achieve when we try hard enough.

The three ad campaigns all convey a similar message that stress women should not be judge by norms of what they could or could not do/be. The creative execution of NIKE Japan is different from the other two. The key message is not spelled out directly in words or dialogues. It relies solely on the visual impact of women pulled by color strings tied to their back. They have to work very hard to break away from the strings and in the end succeeded as they persist, freeing them from limitations and keep going. The symbolic message is easy to understand without any language constraints. The color treatment and art direction of the strings and the Nike women outfits are carefully handled and aesthetically appealing to watch.

There are many approaches to convey the same message in advertising. For any international brand that tries to communicate using online channels, it would surely be beneficial the message could be framed by using “international language” of images, music like the NIKE women Japan “Surprise by me” campaign. It helps audience to understand, increase the chance of getting the messages across, enhances the possibility of viral sharing and ultimately brand/product acceptance.