We should advertise for women’s rights and social change

| September 23, 2016

In a world still ruled by misogyny the pursuit for equality and representation continues. Daniel Deleña argues that advertising can empower women and solicit social change given its reach and ubiquity.

When the Arab Spring took place in early 2011, the world witnessed the uprising in the Middle Eastern region. International media and political entities alike were interested to see if the revolution will lead to a change in their political, economic and social map – which includes women’s rights and representation.

Through blogging and the use of other social media platforms, women have taken the central role in this unrest. They used this opportunity to voice their views about sexism and gender double standards.

Similarly in Asia, the ‘1 Billion Rising Revolution’ was organised in 2015 to increase participation of women in elections, public leadership and decision making. They endeavour to empower women by improving their rights and eradicate violence through evidence-based programs that focus on expanding women’s economic opportunities and advancing women’s political participation.

Although many things have already been done to push forth women’s rights, the pursuit for equality and representation continues. It will be a never-ending search for compromise in a society ruled by misogyny.

For instance, ‘women driving’ remains to be a controversial topic in Saudi Arabia. A YouTube video of a Saudi woman driving a car circulated in 2013. This resulted in extreme opposing views on whether to allow women to drive or not. Most dealt with the issue as a joke, while supporters say that the country has two options: either permit women to drive or ‘provide special discounted transportation’ for them.

There are two important questions that need to be addressed to challenge the status quo. Firstly, what steps are needed to be taken in order to fully achieve women representation? And secondly, what communication channels will best help them initiate public discussion and encourage high participation amongst the women populace?

In a recent study conducted by Kalliny in 2014, she explained that media plays a major role in creating, processing, and presenting messages that can influence and engage people to act on certain issues. TV advertisements are one of the best media to deliver this message as almost everyone consumes television.

In fact, the USA spent a total of $180.8B for TV advertisement in 2014 alone. That is three times more than China and 11 times more than Australia’s ad expenditure in the same year. In the Middle East, TV ad expenditure is projected to reach $28B in 2020. This statistics shows that advertising can indeed be a mighty tool to empower women and solicit social change given its reach and ubiquity.

Therefore, my proposed research aims to communicate the importance of advertising to social change, specifically the impact of TV advertisements to women’s perception of themselves as gendered beings. This study also wants to look at the effect of these messages to women’s perception. Likewise, it wants to understand the process in which these empowering messages are translated into a collective call against gender misrepresentation, double standards and sexism.

Since the advertising industry produces content regularly and is mostly distributed in both traditional and digital channels, I believe that it can be a great tool to support our aspiration for equality and start a conversation. To quote David Ogilvy, ‘if you’re trying to persuade people to do something, it seems that you should use the language they use and in which they think’.



  1. rltuition

    September 26, 2016 at 7:11 am

    Great post

    Yes we must endorse the women rights. It is very sad that women have to fight for their rights. Though they should enjoy all rights equally as men enjoy. Women are leading the countries, there are many examples in which women prove themselves far better than men.