News & Views

International Women’s Day: Campaigns that smash female stereotypes

by Sarah O'Neill
21st March 2019
International Women’s Day: Campaigns that smash female stereotypes, post image

Femvertising is now pretty much mainstream, but when brands get female empowerment advertising right, it can be both inspiring and commercially effective. In honour of International Women’s Day, Waypoint Partners asked seven senior women from marketing and technology – including our very own Lisa Mandell – to name an ad campaign that perfectly showcases female empowerment and to share their wish list around boosting opportunities for women in their industries.

Charlotte Hamill, COO at social media agency, Born Social

Charlotte Hamill

I like the undercurrent of Nike’s Serena Williams ‘Dream Crazier’ campaign. While it doesn’t reverse a gender stereotype, it reclaims ownership of the association between women and emotion, which is powerful and needed. Did I support Serena Williams’ behaviour at the 2018 US Open? No. But do I think the world needs to get used to seeing women with ego, expressing themselves? Absolutely, and Serena Williams is a fantastic face to attach to this message. Linked to the reason I like this ad, my wish for women in marketing is increased confidence. We need to see more women in the boardroom, the gender pay gap disappear and marketing that reflects a wider variety of women. These goals will all be achieved much sooner if women can put themselves out there with a healthy dose of BDE. Employers, leaders, colleagues, friends and family must all look for opportunities to build confidence in the women around them. When there are as many confident women as there are men, we can speak up for /nominate/ and include ourselves without waiting to be invited. Teach someone to fish…

Zoe Kelleher, Managing Director at experience design agency, Webcredible, part of Inviqa

zoe kelleher

When I think of who I’ve most loved working with over the years, I remember them not for their gender, but for their trust, humour, honesty and good communication. It would be amazing if all people could be judged on the skills, personality and strengths they bring to a role. None of these things are gender exclusive. For this to happen, we need companies to truly recognise that a diverse workforce fosters innovation, creativity and a great culture that people want to be part of. It contributes massively to the success of any workplace.

A recent campaign that I love is Women in Tech, which was launched to surface and share the stories of women doing amazing things in the tech space. In the UK in particular, tech has been very male dominated – this is changing but there’s a long way to go. And I’m really proud that Women in Tech is also the focus of our CSR at Inviqa for 2019. In the long-term, it shouldn’t be necessary to have gender specific campaigns but for now these are crucial in increasing awareness and eradicating stereotypes.

Sarah Jennings, CEO at digital marketing agency Oban International

Sarah Jennings

I sometimes try and swap the gender roles in ads in order to imagine how that switch affects the communication. For example, I’d have found the current Macmillan campaign more compelling if I’d seen a woman worrying over the impact on her finances and one man hugging another to offer emotional support. I’d love a marketing world where we naturally include the broadest mix of people, rather than defaulting to tokenism or stereotypes.

Apart from that I want to see many more brilliant businesswomen in marketing (and other disciplines), expressing their unique perspectives and making their own contribution authentically and confidently.

That’s why I like Nike’s ‘Dream Crazier.’ The video showcases sports women smashing their goals and displaying the passion that got them there in the first place. Serena Williams is a fantastic champion who has faced and challenged discrimination and her endorsement only makes the campaign more powerful.

Melina Jacovou, Founder & CEO at talent solutions business, Propel London

Increased female representation in senior roles is something that many of us have been striving for. Among my top wishes is that we have more women in decision-making positions, up to board level, who are recognised and rewarded equally. Companies that are diverse and fully inclusive are much stronger and are proven to be more successful. I’d also like to see more support for women across all forms of diversity – economic, disability, people of colour, LGBT – plus, not only for those who have reached the upper levels of the career ladder.

It’s hugely encouraging to see so many ads now helping to challenge negative perceptions about women. The RAF’s No Room For Clichés recruitment campaign is a great example. I love the way it spoofs the patronising, gendered approach marketers have tended to use to sell to women by juxtaposing cliched lines from familiar sanpro/skincare/haircare ads with gritty images of women at work for the RAF. Well done to the RAF for inverting its male heritage and championing women in a way that’s both provocative and entertaining.

Kate Fenton, Partner at brand, digital and shopper marketing agency, Multiply

Did you know that in America there are fewer women running Fortune 500 companies than there are Fortune 500 CEOs called James? I’d say this is pretty indicative of the marketing industry in Britain. Before joining Multiply, I was Deputy Managing Director of a KLP agency in Edinburgh. I’d love to say I was surrounded by women of my level, but that simply wasn’t the case. Over the years, more and more women are being hired in top-level appointments, but the shift hasn’t exactly been seismic. It’s my wish that young, incredibly capable women feel empowered to ask for what they deserve from employers. Ambition should be celebrated and encouraged, regardless of gender. At Multiply we’re proud to have a female Creative Director, and male staff who support and champion their female colleagues.

When it comes to great  ads whichshowcase female empowerment, I have a young daughter and I hope that by the time she starts her career, toxic masculinity will be banished from society. Pixar’s ‘Purl’demonstrates the challenges women face trying to fit into a male corporate culture. It’s an important campaign which will resonate with women, and men. This includes men who see similarities in their behaviour at ‘BRO Capital’ – the very male company featured in Purl – and those men who object to this behaviour, but don’t know how to navigate it.

Pixar is following through on promoting diversity and equality, following criticism several years ago. I truly hope that ‘Purl’ encourages and engages all ages and genders, to work towards equality, and for the young people watching, to take this message into their working adult life.

Catherine Shuttleworth, CEO at retail and shopper marketing agency, Savvy

Catherine Shuttleworth

If I could offer one piece of advice to anyone in the creative, marketing and advertising industries it would be to stay true to yourself. Whatever your background, ethnicity, gender or shoe size, the industry needs diversity and authenticity. Authentic leaders make the difference in our industry and by ensuring a balanced workforce of many talents, we will deliver the best creativity possible. On International Women’s Day we can reflect on how far we’ve come in creating balance, but also consider how we can all do more to ensure our businesses provide the right environment to deliver this and commercial success.

I’m a big fan of Smirnoff’s Equalizer initiative which aims to promote equality for women in music by getting more people to listen to female artists. Following the revelation that none of Spotify’s top 10 most streamed tracks in 2017 were by women artists or bands, Spotify and Smirnoff created an API (application programming interface) which showed Spotify listeners the percentage of female artists they had listened in the last six months to compared to male ones. It then offered listeners an individually tailored playlist with equal numbers of men and women artists. This is a very relevant campaign for Smirnoff that focuses on good times and music whilst raising a critically important issue of the gender pay gap in the music industry. It also puts the brand’s money where its mouth is with investment into developing female artists. The initiative also tied in with Smirnoff’s partnership with Global Radio and Live Nation to equalize the line-up of women artists at festivals around Europe. What I like about the initiative is that it had good reach with its target market and managed to educate whilst creating engaging and fun content. It’s campaigning not preaching.

Lisa Mandell, Partner at Growth and M&A Advisors, Waypoint Partners

Even in a sophisticated sector like marketing, gender stereotypes still exist and while they do, they risk holding women back. Going forward, I want women in our industry to feel confident and empowered to promote their strengths, skills and expertise without worrying that their gender, age or looks will count against them. For this to happen, marketing leaders need to be more accountable for driving diversity and for committing to giving women the support, training and encouragement they need. I’d also love to see women continue to boost each other by offering to mentor more junior women and going into schools so that young girls can meet positive female role models.

If women are properly represented within the marketing industry, my hope is that this will increasingly be reflected in ad campaigns too. We need more marketing which celebrates real women, not the narrow, youth and beauty-obsessed representations that remain the norm. Sport England’s hugely successful This Girl Can campaign celebrates women of all shapes, sizes, ages and ethnicities enjoying sport on their own terms and is credited with narrowing the gender gap between men and women who exercise. “Fit Got Real” the latest ad in the series, aims to target women from lower-income backgrounds by showing women exercising at home or in the park and poking fun at the awkwardness of getting fit, such as getting changed on a beach. In keeping with the campaign as a whole, I love the ad’s humour, joie de vivre and empowering empathy with women – themes that chime well with International Women’s Day.

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