Diana Brooks
Jul 11, 2022

In a post-Roe world, we need to be better at marketing healthcare to women

Now more than ever we need to speak more bluntly to women about their health and address some painful facts rather than resort to unhelpful typecasts and stereotypes, says a US ad agency head.

In a post-Roe world, we need to be better at marketing healthcare to women

I run an ad agency that thinks a lot about healthcare, and women’s health in particular — and about how truly lousy marketers still are at speaking to women. And then along came news that the Commanders of the Handmaid's Tale (you know, the US Supreme Court) have overturned Roe v. Wade, and with it longstanding protections over women’s health. They were rights that, for many years, we took for granted — but clearly shouldn’t have.

This turn of events — aside from making me want to set my blood pressure cuff on fire  — makes the matter of women’s health and wellness all the more urgent.

Is it any wonder that in a world where politicians and their appointed lackeys on the nation’s highest court wield the power to control women’s health and their reproductive systems — something I find outrageous in the year 2022 — marketers still struggle to hit the right notes when it comes to selling health-related products and services to women? I would submit that is because both Washington and Madison Avenue continue to be predominantly run by men — something even more outrageous.

When it comes to health and wellness marketing, there still remains simply too much typecasting and stereotyping when talking to and about women. There are certainly those companies that get it right — but they’re often those that were started by and are run by women, from Cora and Honey Pot Co.’s organic feminine hygiene products to medical products and solutions provider Hims and Hers to medical tech startup Paragonix. These are just a few examples of female-powered health and wellness brands radically reshaping the sector — and reimagining how to market to women.

The power of advertising

We can all agree that there are few things more powerful than advertising. But we don’t need an ad to make us aware of the mountain women are still up against.

By now we women know that we can’t “have it all” without making certain sacrifices, to ourselves and to others, in our work lives and in our personal lives. We also know that we can’t be expected to strive to make sure the world is a better place unless we’re doing all we can to first make sure we ourselves are well — physically, spiritually, emotionally.

Women putting themselves first won’t win us any popularity contests. For too many people it smacks of selfishness. But we can’t worry anymore about how it makes us look. The work we have before us is too important. We really need to be at our personal best, each one of us, because there are so many societal challenges that require us to bring 100% of ourselves to the table.

I understand that marketing healthcare to women can be a sensitive thing — talking to consumers about a pap smear or a mammogram is serious business. But at some point, I think we’ve just got to rip off the f-ing Band-Aid, to talk about our vulnerability openly, and to address the need to take care of ourselves as women openly. And that kind of ovaries-out messaging is, by and large, simply not reflected in marketing today.

We still see far too many of those cringey, typecast images of the working mother, or the doting mother, or the harried mother — the martyred woman. I wonder, when are we going to be able to really have conversations around all we’re up against as women and the solutions to those challenges — whether it be helping us with mental health or with the products or services that help us be better people, or be better positioned to do all we are tasked with — without painting us as Superwoman, or Burdened Woman, or Depressed Woman?

Let’s be blunt

We’ve got to speak more bluntly to women about their health. And that involves addressing some painful facts.

Fact: Many women are not getting the preventative care they need.

Fact: Even post-Obamacare, still too many women go without medical insurance (12.6 million women and girls, according to the most recent Census.)

Fact: Women significantly pay more for health insurance than men — because we have babies and need maternity coverage. In this world, motherhood is a preexisting condition.

Fact: Women of any age can be diagnosed with breast cancer, cervical cancer, ovarian cancer. Which means that insurance providers play an outsized role in women’s well-being; only covering diagnostic mammograms after 40. 

True story: A dear friend of mine has a lump in her breast. She has a family history of breast disease, and she’s in her early 30s; her insurance provider won’t cover a mammogram until she’s 40. So, if she does go and gets a mammogram, it’s going to be out of pocket. How does that make sense to anybody reading this? Especially to the women reading this who have heard too many of these horrific stories before?

And now we’ve got the Retrograde Right on the Supreme Court weighing in on what we can and cannot do with our own bodies.

This, of course, should be a wake-up call for women everywhere to be our own advocates and our own champions when it comes to women’s health. And as women in marketing, we must work overtime to make sure that those messages speak to women in a way that is real, that resonates, and that makes a palpable difference in women’s lives.

Diana Brooks is chief vision officer of The 3rd Eye

Campaign US

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