International Women’s Day celebrated on 8th of March every year, is a celebration of the achievements and the perseverance of all the women we know and love. Historically what set the current of change is still in motion - as we’ve come a long way but we still have a long way to go. In the world of advertisement, the value placed on universally celebrated events such as Women’s day present a great opportunity for brands to drive a personal narrative by sharing their voice and connecting on a deeper level with their customers.
Utilising what is known as purpose-driven marketing or cause marketing - which is a subset of marketing that involves use of activist messaging or supporting a cause in advertisements, brands go beyond the superficial layer of promoting their business and instead, dig much deeper to find causes that align with what their customers care about and also what fits with their brand values.
Research suggests that customers are more likely to buy from companies that support causes, hence it is important to look beyond selling and instead, share their voice to leverage these topical events effectively. International Women’s Day is one such global event that gives a chance to brands worldwide to creatively voice their standpoint.
In this blog, we will look at some of the best Women’s Day campaigns across global brands - the funny ones, the emotional ones, the thought-provoking ones to understand their effectiveness in creating change.
Here are some of the best Women's Day advertising campaigns that focused on building a narrative and storytelling:
1. BMO - ‘Financial Freedom’: Bank of Montreal or BMO, wanted to tackle a very simple yet important issue: while women are more financially empowered than ever before (they now control over 40% of global wealth), their financial literacy and confidence is still questioned to the point that they hesitate to make their own financial decisions.
This purpose-driven campaign builds on an emotional connection by highlighting a long-observed and relevant issue and in doing so, highlights the need for change.
2. Blush - ‘Is That You?’ #ChangeTheRhyme: As a beauty brand, how do you break the clutter of women’s day campaign in your space? Blush in association with Dove aim to challenge beauty standards by challenging the first origin seeds of these norms - nursery rhymes. Growing up we’ve all heard and even recited the common ‘Chubby cheeks, rosy lips…’ nursery rhyme. Taking this rhyme, Blush poses the question - ‘Is that you?’ while playing clips of Indian sportswomen to breakaway from the beauty monopoly.
3. Shorts: In a short, byte-sized format one can still propagate a message creatively as done by brands like BIBA and corporates like HDFC.
HDFC - ‘#AWomansPlace’: Where #AWomansPlace ought to be, is something she decides for herself. Through compact, 20-seconder clips, the message HDFC puts across is straightforward and impactful, without any dialogues or unnecessary plot lines, they successfully use the byte-sized format to communicate their policies and loan plans:
BIBA - ‘#AnEqualWorldStartsWithYou’: Facebook thumb-stoppers are a perfect way to grab the audience’s attention and put across the message succinctly. BIBA’s portrayal of an equal world does this by showing snippets of those very every-day instances.
Click on the images to play
In the increasing digitalised world, integrating technology can help elevate storytelling and make it more impactful. Beyond just putting a message across, Women’s Day is also about creating actionable change. Many brands take this as an opportunity to break the bounds of traditional campaigning and find new ways to share their values.
1. Lessons in HerStory: An app that makes history more inclusive, all one has to do is open the app and scan an image of a male historical figure in a history book to unlock a story of an important female historical figure from that same period. For instance, when a user scans a male President, they will see an illustration and story of Cathay Williams, the first African American woman to be enlisted in the army during the Civil War.
This campaign works to widen how we understand traditional marketing and use technology to our advantage in spreading the message wide and across.
2. Fifty-fifty Lebanon ‘Close the Gap’: Internationally celebrated events such as Women’s Day are a great occasion to highlight key issues prevalent and important to women. Gender pay gap is one of them, and fifty fifty, an NGO based in Lebanon wanted to inspire a change in attitude towards working women. The idea was to show people what it means to close the gap, literally.
In Arabic, a gap between two words or two letters can change the way a word is read and understood. And in some cases, by closing the gap between the letters, we reveal a new word, with an entirely different meaning. This abstract idea turned into an effective campaign garnering attention on this serious issue.
3. Lenovo ‘Equality Spell Check’: We all know that same word can have several connotations especially when it comes to gender, a word can mean two different things for men and women. For example, seniority for a man means authority, but for 64% of women it means having their abilities questioned constantly. The difference in connotative meanings inspired the team at Wunderman to develop an innovative plug-in for MS Word that highlighted specific words as incorrect, then revealed how they mean something different for women. For instance, ‘Plan’ would show the autocorrect suggestion - ‘During interviews, 13% of women are asked about their PLANS of becoming a mother.’
4. Woman Interrupted: We’ve all heard of mansplaining but what about Manterruption? It's when men interrupt women unnecessarily. 'Woman Interrupted' is a free app created to help detect the number of times a man interrupts while a woman is talking. This is a fine example of how an actionable change is created by combining the right insight with technology.
The same agency extended their campaign in the form of print ads where they asked female artists to donate their artwork to promote the fight against #Manterruption. Here are some of the illustrations:
Developing campaigns in the realm of non-fiction that uses actual/raw footage as an approach puts up the mirror of our society’s reality and provides substantial evidence for the arguments we put up. While a fictionalised film about gender pay gap would be effective, through a social experiment approach the creators can provide backing for their claims.
1. Always, #LikeAGirl: One of the most popular adverts that has set the benchmark of purpose-driven advertising, Always a sanitary napkin brand sets in a social experiment where they question what it means to use the phrase ‘like a girl’. Punch like a girl. Throw like a girl. Why are you crying like a girl? These sentences are commonly used in an insulting and defamatory manner, however, Always turns it into an empowering message that women globally relate to.
2. The Gender Salary Experiment: What happens when the same person dresses as a man and a woman and interviews for the same job with the same qualifications? In this social experiment, the harsh truth about the cruel difference in wages offered to each gender is revealed.
4. Mercedes Benz: In the film, 'No Limits,' we see young girls reacting to a wide variety of toys. When handed a toy car, the girls dismiss it as being “for boys.” But after seeing the short film about Ewy Rosqvist, an iconic motorsports driver, each girl has a visible attitude shift. This experiment supports the research suggesting that when young girls are exposed to strong positive messages or shown positive role models, it helps to deter formation of harmful stereotypes.
5. PAINting: Amnesty International, the NGO based in UK took a stand against domestic violence in a unique campaign that sought to replace popular art and paintings such as those of Mona Lisa, Frieda Kahlo and Marilyn Monroe to show them with bruises and other injuries. This stirred a global conversation around domestic violence as the bold step to unveil a sensitive topic through a mainstream lens, definitely turned heads around.
6. EmpowHer, The Call: In the health and wellness industry too, Women’s Day was an opportunity to unveil the racial and sexual biases prevalent in providing medical assistance. Studies in the USA show that black women receive 34% less pain medication and die 4 times more in labor. In addition to being 22% more likely to die of heart disease and 71% of cervical cancer. And doctors believe men 7 times more than women when it comes to pain symptoms. This video illustrates how the difference in treatment can literally decide the fate of someones life or death.
7. AMVC (Association of Women Against Violence), Today: Another great print advert for Women’s Day, Agency Fuel resorted to straight facts and data to drive home the point of brutalities against women. No frivolous storytelling, just direct data can prove to be extremely effective when it comes to print adverts.
8. This Thing of Ours, #ChoosetoChallenge: For last year’s IWD, another creative campaign was that of an animated compilation featuring works of over 90 female artists and illustrators. With the constant gesture of holding the hand up as a symbol of showing solidarity and support.
9. Microsoft, #MakeWhatsNext: Similar to how our history books have patriarchal undertones (and honestly, overtones), the field of Science and generally STEM also have a deliriously male-washed background. Microsoft then goes on to ask questions to young girls if they can name women inventors which proves to be a difficult task. Microsoft sends across the message to celebrate all things ’woman made’ and doesn’t just stop there, the campaign introduces a unique program for young female inventors that would provide the guidance and funding to file a patent.
In conclusion, from the amazing campaigns we saw above it’s clear that brands across the world have in the past, and even now, continue to work towards an equal and inclusive brand communication and messaging.
Which ones were your favourite campaigns? Tell us in the comments below!