The Power of Feminist Iconography on a rural NC Billboard

Traveling down Hwy 70 in rural North Carolina, we passed this powerful billboard image and had to turn around to take a second look. I found it nteresting to see such a strong female stereotype used in a politically conservative “red neck” part of the country. Great way to get our attention and then work in a twist with a message about women’s health. Then just a mile later we saw another billboard of the first African American female astronaut Mae Jemison, an empowering black female figure suggesting to all women that they have what it takes to use their “smarts” to go places!


4 thoughts on “The Power of Feminist Iconography on a rural NC Billboard

  1. I love talking about media. I love the campaign shown in the first two billboards, but find the “bring it home” copy lost because it’s so small. Do you agree?

    On the Mae Jemison billboard, I find it lacks in good copywriting. If I were flying by at 60-80 mph, I’d be lost. The headline (“To her, it IS rocket science”) offers a double entendre: 1. she is a rocket scientist and 2. she doesn’t understand a lot, because it is, after all, “rocket science.”

    This confusion is followed by two poorly designed “calls to action” — “pioneering,” “#passiton,” and “” (whose music video commercials I find equally without focus).

    In other words, I find we need more direction with the third billboard. Are we to appreciate Mae Jemison? Try to find out more? How would we “pass it on” if we knew what we were passing on?

    Your thoughts?

    1. Susan – thanks for your thoughts on the post. I agree that both billboard campaigns have intriguing qualities but vary in the finer points made. Obviously our decision to back track to see the details of the “” message signifies either a failure to deliver the entire message at once or an assumption that the local audience will become familiar with the sign. The initial message is that women are just a good as men but the intended and overly subtle message is that in fact women can be just as “bad” – at risk for heart disease – as men.
      As for the the double entendre of the Jemison billboard, I think it works. But it demands we leave behind any baggage surrounding her gender or race and see her simply and more importantly as a “Pioneering” role model. The sponsors or tags for this board do little more than add clutter in my opinion.
      Again thanks for your thoughts!

  2. OK, I see your point re: rocket scientist. So … I would say a better approach might have been her photo and the copy “Mae Jemison, Rocket Scientist.” That gets rid of the double entendre that works against the ad. And then a call to action.

    It’s interesting. IMHO, ads used to be more successful than they are today. The “Mad Men” world was very competitive and that alone elicited better results. Today, commercial ads, both print and television, are fraught with poor messaging even if their production value is high.

    Hey … I am creating a web site for this very reason — to deconstruct advertising, along with some other ideas I have. Would you be interested in hearing more about it when ready?

    1. Great, I look forward to hearing more about this project and what angles, if any, you plan to take! Sounds like an area you’ll have plenty of insight to contribute to with your experience in writing, photo and videography.

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