Is Verizon Feminist, Sexist, or Just Using Us?

The ad is beautiful. It calls into question the seemingly innocent language that we use with little girls that has the potential to hold them back from achieving what they are truly passionate about. Even someone with a basic awareness of feminist issues and the effect of the use of language has to applaud Verizon for this ad and their #InspireHerMind campaign.

But that isn’t the only ad that Verizon has made that should get the attention of feminists. Check out this little jewel. I can only imagine that the video is so awful in this version because Verizon has pulled their official version from the web.

Not only are these two women so uncontrollably emotional that they cannot deal with their pending separation in a healthy way, but the daughter may even get lost living just 4.2 miles away. Whatever can these two helpless maidens do but buy a GPS-enabled smartphone? Ridiculous. (BTW, this ad was revised several times. Originally they were crying so much that people couldn’t understand them. This is the second version. Then the third version changed 4.2 miles to 15 miles, as if that somehow made their sexism less sexist.)

So how might we reconcile the extremely ridiculing images of the 2012 Mother’s Day ad with this new campaign meant to break sexist stereotypes?

I suppose that the most charitable explanation is that Verizon marketing has seen that the previous images are a mistake and that they have the power to be a positive force for good. The relative lack of attention to anything that Verizon actually sells in the new ad might tell us that this is the case. But marketing often involves very little about the actual product, as they sell us the images of the people that we want to become with these kinds of loose associations with actual products. In any case, I think we can expect that this particular ad is going to cause people to talk about things that matter with regards to raising kids and especially little girls. That’s a great thing.

A second interpretation is that Verizon has the most disconnected strategy in the world. Maybe the makers of the new campaign aren’t the same people as before. Maybe they’ve forgotten the old images that they created. Maybe 6 months from now we will the same ridiculous projection of sexist images.

Maybe I’m cynical, but I think the third option is the most likely. Marketers aren’t worried about changing the world. They just want to change your mind about their product. Verizon’s research has shown that Dove’s Real Beauty, #MyStealthyFreedom, #YesAllWomen, and Pantene’s #ShineStrong campaign aren’t anomalies. These are the new normal. People are tired of sexism and they want the companies they do business with to be conscious of it too. I don’t think Verizon cares about women entering STEM fields, but they know that many of their customers do care. And they will ride that bandwagon to Wall Street.

But I guess the question I have is bigger than that. Whether Verizon has turned over a new leaf or they just want to draw out the next dollar, we know that there are companies that ARE riding the feminist bandwagon or the ethical food bandwagon or the anti-trafficking bandwagon. How should consumers respond? I don’t know the best way to respond. I’d love to hear from you. Here are three possibilities that I can imagine:

  1. We ignore them. We know that they are just using us so we put on the strong cynical face and don’t pay attention.
  2. We use them back. We can share these ads on our Facebook walls and Twitter feeds because they say exactly what we want to say and do it beautifully. But that doesn’t mean we buy their product. A good cynic can play their game and go on buying exactly what they did before.
  3. We reward them. Even if we know that they are playing us, we can buy that new Verizon phone to show them that this stuff works. Because whether the cynic knows that there are ulterior motives or not, many people that will see these ads won’t think about that very much. They will hopefully just talk with their little girls differently and a new culture of social consciousness proliferates.

How will you respond? Is there some “4th way” that I haven’t considered? Let me know in the comments.

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  1. sandy says

    I think Verizon is out to make money. If they happen to make a good & positive statement in the process, then it’s a win/win.

  2. says

    I believe it is Dove that is owned by the same company that owns Axe, which has been known to release plenty of demeaning and sexist ads, while Dove simultaneously releases their real beauty campaign ads. I personally remain cynical and believe they will do whatever it requires to make money. However, I am unsure of what to do about it.

  3. Wesley A Wallace says

    I had CNN remove this sexist and inappropriate commercial. VzW hires 90% women and the only men they hire are ones the regular female employees openly state that they want to have sex with. I contacted the EEOC and they straightened VzW out, but unfortunately, it looks like they are up to their sexist ways again. VzW also performs a gay interview, because they don’t want to hire any gay people. You have no idea how profoundly disturbed these people are. Additionally, when I worked in their Regulatory Department, they were supposed to be hiring people out of their pool of assignment workers, but after HR told one of the managers to stop only hiring women out of the pool of contract worker candidates, he started directly hiring women from his neighborhood, bypassing the candidates who had been working at VzW for several years as contract laborers.

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