John St.’s Latest Merciless Satire Just Destroys the Dove Style of Marketing to Women

'If she's crying, she's buying'

Headshot of Tim Nudd

The trend toward female empowerment ads—or so-called "femvertising"—has been largely celebrated both within and outside the ad industry, with brands like Dove and Always earning plaudits and prizes for their celebration of women. But there have been a few downsides as well.

First, many of the campaigns—particularly Dove's—have been subject to the criticism that they prey on the insecurities of women just to sell more stuff. And second, there's been an undeniable bandwagon aspect to the genre, with some brands cynically embracing pro-woman themes with messaging that feels more calculated than heartfelt.

Toronto agency John St. brilliantly takes down the more suspect side of femvertising with the pitch-perfect parody below, in which it pretends to open a new agency called Jane St. to exploit the hell out of women regardless of whether it makes any sense whatsoever to their clients.

There are so many great details here, from the "If She's Crying, She's Buying" poster on the wall to the proprietary "Core Lady Insecurity To Target"—or "C-LITT"—model of advertising to women, which exposes "the most sensitive area for a message of empowerment."

The website is pretty fun, too, with some fake ads and testimonials—including a quote from one "Mark Burnberg" of Hank's Cabinet Hardware, who enthuses: "I didn't think female empowerment was right for our brand. Jane St. proved me wrong."

John St. has done plenty of parody videos in which it pretends to open new practices, from Catvertising to last year's Reactvertising. But this one—like the others, made for Strategy magazine's Agency of the Year event—is its most cutting yet.

Time to polish off that Glass Lion.

Also, here is a list of winning agencies from Strategy's AOY event.

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.