Brands Use International Women’s Day To Talk Gender Inequality, Empower Women

Brands use day to cel­e­brate impor­tance of women and shine a light on domes­tic abuse.

Lisa Lacy By Lisa Lacy. Join the discussion » 0 comments

Inter­na­tion­al Women’s Day is a sin­gle day — March 8 — that “rep­re­sents an oppor­tu­ni­ty to cel­e­brate the achieve­ments of women while call­ing for greater equal­i­ty,” at least accord­ing to the web­site And this year, a num­ber of brands used the occa­sion to roll out cam­paigns – and, in sev­er­al cas­es, just sin­gle-day acti­va­tions – that are tied to longer term, more ever­green efforts.

Tra­di­tion­al adver­tis­ing col­lat­er­al like bill­boards and mag­a­zines, as well as dig­i­tal favorites like videos and hash­tags, aimed to draw atten­tion to weighty top­ics like gen­der qual­i­ty, empow­er­ment and domes­tic abuse on Inter­na­tion­al Wom­en’s Day.

Mar­ket­ing experts say lever­ag­ing pop­u­lar memes and hash­tags is a great way to draw atten­tion to these issues and can help brands con­nect with women in par­tic­u­lar on an occa­sion like Inter­na­tion­al Women’s Day, but the chal­lenge remains to actu­al­ly live the mes­sage by demon­strat­ing these val­ues in the mar­ket.

Here’s a look at some of the more note­wor­thy efforts for Inter­na­tion­al Women’s Day this year.

Clinton Foundation’s #NotThere

On March 8, brands teamed up with the non­prof­it Clin­ton Foun­da­tion to raise aware­ness of gen­der inequal­i­ty by remov­ing women from their adver­tis­ing to “[reflect] what a new analy­sis of women and girls’ progress says about the state of gen­der equal­i­ty: we’re not there yet,” the web­site says.

As part of the effort, media com­pa­ny Condé Nast removed the cov­er images on titles like VogueGlam­our, SelfAllureTeen VogueW, and Brides, and instead direct­ed read­ers to, which has facts on gen­der equal­i­ty, along with inter­ac­tive data visu­al­iza­tions.

In addi­tion, on Clear Chan­nel Outdoor’s Times Square bill­board, audio prod­ucts brand Beats by Dre removed images of women and direct­ed con­sumers to the Not There web­site. Addi­tion­al brands like Dove, Tre­sem­mé, Under Armour, and Kate Spade New York also removed women from their adver­tis­ing and direct­ed con­sumers to

I think some­times the media gives the false impres­sion, through its visu­al imagery, that women are treat­ed equal­ly in the glob­al con­ver­sa­tion, said Vogue Edi­tor-in-Chief Anna Win­tour, in a pre­pared state­ment. “It is impor­tant for us to cor­rect that impres­sion, even sym­bol­i­cal­ly on March 8, to move the con­ver­sa­tion for­ward and cre­ate real change.”

Cre­at­ed in con­junc­tion with ad agency Droga5, the Not There cam­paign coin­cides with the release of the No Ceil­ings Full Par­tic­i­pa­tion Report, which the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion says is a 20-year data-dri­ven review on the sta­tus of women and girls since 1995, when Hillary Clin­ton called on the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty to ensure that “women’s rights are human rights.”

The Not There cam­paign and No Ceil­ings data was also fea­tured in Snapchat’s Dis­cov­er plat­form as a day-long takeover of Snapchat’s Snap Chan­nel.  In addi­tion, iHeart­Media radio sta­tions launched an on-air Not There cam­paign that played clips by female artists with­out the female vocal tracks.

We are tak­ing a col­lec­tive stand that full par­tic­i­pa­tion for women and girls any­where and every­where remains the unfin­ished busi­ness of the 21st cen­tu­ry,” said Clin­ton Foun­da­tion Vice Chair Chelsea Clin­ton. “By know­ing the facts and what has worked and has­n’t worked to advance gen­der equal­i­ty, we can accel­er­ate the pace of change for women and girls…”

In an accom­pa­ny­ing video, actress­es Amy Poehler, Cameron Diaz, Jen­ny Slate, Sien­na Miller, and Pad­mi Lak­sh­mi lent their voic­es to “inspire Amer­i­cans to learn the facts on gen­der equal­i­ty and inspire action on a glob­al scale.”

The video had about 35,000 views as of March 8.

Women’s Aid’s #LookAtMe

Cre­ative agency WCRS and UK domes­tic vio­lence char­i­ty Women’s Aid teamed up to cre­ate an inter­ac­tive bill­board for Inter­na­tion­al Women’s Day that, per a press release, “shows how we can all make tan­gi­ble changes in the fight against domes­tic vio­lence.”

Per WCRS, the engage­ment-acti­vat­ed bill­board includ­ed the image of a bruised woman and the mes­sage, “Look at me.”

Women's Aid Look at Me Billboard

The cre­ative, which was dis­played at three loca­tions in the UK, used facial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­o­gy that WCRS says enables the screens to rec­og­nize when con­sumers paid atten­tion to the woman. As more peo­ple noticed her, her bruis­es slow­ly healed, which, WCRS says, demon­strates that by tak­ing notice, con­sumers can help con­front domes­tic vio­lence.

Passers­by who looked at the screens also got feed­back via a live video feed that ran along the bot­tom of the ad as a visu­al tick­er tape, reg­is­ter­ing an increas­ing num­ber of view­ers. As of March 6, Stu­art Williams, plan­ner at WCRS, said WCRS was still track­ing engage­ment, dwell time and dona­tions, but says, “Anec­do­tal­ly, we’ve seen a real­ly pos­i­tive response to the cam­paign, with a par­tic­u­lar­ly warm reac­tion on Twit­ter.”

Accord­ing to Williams, WCRS cre­at­ed a 3D cin­e­ma ad for Women’s Aid in 2012 called Blind Eye that asked con­sumers to cov­er one eye to see one side of the sto­ry – a woman going about her day-to-day life – and to cov­er the oth­er eye to see the oth­er side – the woman being abused by her part­ner.

This cam­paign was real­ly suc­cess­ful but we felt like there was more we could do – while the view­er could choose whether to watch or not watch, he/she couldn’t actu­al­ly influ­ence what was hap­pen­ing on screen,” Williams said. “We thought the mes­sage would be even more pow­er­ful if the viewer’s choice to look or not to look could actu­al­ly have a direct impact on the out­come.”

Salvation Army’s #TheDress

The South African arm of char­i­ta­ble orga­ni­za­tion Sal­va­tion Army cap­i­tal­ized upon the pop­u­lar­i­ty of #The­Dress hash­tag to also high­light abuse against women in a tweet that played on the dress’ col­ors and asked, “Why is it so hard to see black and blue? The only illu­sion is if you think it’s her choice. One in six women are vic­tims of abuse. Stop abuse against women.”

As of March 8, it had more than 7,800 retweets and 3,500 favorites. Fur­ther, per the Sal­va­tion Army, the ad was also the sub­ject of more than 3,000 tweets in the space of an hour on March 6 and “had the poten­tial to reach 6 mil­lion view­ers through­out the world.”

We are enor­mous­ly encour­aged that so many peo­ple on social media appear to be pas­sion­ate about fight­ing the abuse of women,” said Carin Holmes, PR Sec­re­tary for the Sal­va­tion Army’s South­ern Africa Ter­ri­to­ry, in a pre­pared state­ment. “We are indebt­ed to adver­tis­ing agency, Ire­land Dav­en­port, for their cre­ativ­i­ty.”

The Sal­va­tion Army’s work among abused women includes a shel­ter, Care­haven in Cape Town, which it says offers sanc­tu­ary and short-term hous­ing to up to 60 women and their chil­dren.

Accord­ing to Tes­sa Wegert, com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor at dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing agency Enlight­en, lever­ag­ing pop­u­lar cul­tur­al memes and hash­tag trends like #The­Dress is a great strat­e­gy for recal­i­brat­ing the way con­sumers view social issues.

If there’s an oppor­tu­ni­ty to turn a meme into a debate about a more mean­ing­ful issue, orga­ni­za­tions should jump on that,” she said. “It gives them imme­di­ate access to a mas­sive audi­ence of engaged social media users, and dares those users to see a famil­iar visu­al in a new way.”

How­ev­er, Wegert notes the chal­lenge for brands work­ing to call atten­tion to issues like domes­tic vio­lence is to cut through the social media clut­ter, but being unpre­dictable as the Sal­va­tion Army has done can real­ly help.

Fur­ther, Kris Kiger, exec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent and man­ag­ing direc­tor at adver­tis­ing agency R/GA, agrees cam­paigns like this can be an effec­tive way to seed the dis­cus­sion of seri­ous issues.

We are a high­ly frag­ment­ed pop­u­la­tion with dis­parate­ly shared expe­ri­ences. Adver­tis­ing might be the one way we can assure the seed­ing of impor­tant pub­lic aware­ness,” she said. “I think adver­tis­ing is sto­ry­telling, and it’s a great way to reach and affect audi­ences. Adver­tis­ing reflects cul­ture. At its best, it can affect and help shape it. It’s a great respon­si­bil­i­ty the indus­try has if we choose to rec­og­nize that.”

YouTube’s #DearMe

In addi­tion, YouTube is encour­ag­ing con­sumers to upload video let­ters addressed to their younger selves in an effort called #DearMe for Inter­na­tion­al Women’s Day.

An overview video from YouTube has 3.5 mil­lion views as of March 8.

A blog post reminds users how hard it was to be teenagers and implores them to “share your expe­ri­ences to help make that jour­ney eas­i­er for a new gen­er­a­tion of girls” with the hash­tag #DearMe. A search on YouTube for the hash­tag yield­ed about 15,000 results as of March 8. Fur­ther, per Top­sy, #DearMe has more than 100,000 men­tions since March 1.

Users can also uti­lize YouTube’s GIF-mak­er on its #DearMe Tum­blr page.

YouTube is a place where peo­ple can come togeth­er, share inter­ests, relate expe­ri­ences and offer each oth­er sup­port. From #ItGets­Bet­ter to #Proud­to­Play, we’ve seen our com­mu­ni­ty inspire and empow­er those in need of encour­age­ment,” the plat­form says. “Today, we’re ask­ing you to do the same for girls who don’t have to face their prob­lems alone.”

Dig­i­tal indus­try con­sul­tant Hol­lis Thomases said to expect more of this feel-good/in­spi­ra­tional adver­tis­ing going for­ward.

Women are ‘more feel­ing crea­tures,’ as it’s been put out there and evoca­tive adver­tis­ing like this gets the core of a feel­ing,” she said.

How­ev­er, she notes con­cern about the overuse of cam­paigns like this “par­tic­u­lar­ly if the brand mes­sag­ing does not con­nect to what the brand actu­al­ly demon­strates in the mar­ket” because “brand­ing and mes­sag­ing alone will not work unless the con­sumer can also believe that the com­pa­ny behind the mes­sage actu­al­ly ‘lives’ that mes­sage,” Thomases said.

Always’ #LikeAGirl

In addi­tion, fem­i­nine brand Always released anoth­er video, Stronger Togeth­er, in its #LikeA­Girl cam­paign, which has about 163,000 views as of March 8. Always launched the first #LikeA­Girl video in June 2014 to “shed a light on the pow­er of words and how the com­mon­ly used phrase ‘like a girl’ – often used as an insult – can have a sig­nif­i­cant effect on girls’ self-con­fi­dence.”

It has more than 56 mil­lion views to date. The brand also repur­posed the ad for the Super Bowl and gained anoth­er 2.5 mil­lion views.

With this new user-gen­er­at­ed video, we con­tin­ue to cham­pi­on girls’ con­fi­dence by tak­ing a stand to turn #LikeA­Girl into a phrase that rep­re­sents the strength, tal­ent, char­ac­ter and amaz­ing-ness of every girl,” the brand says.

Per Always, the spot has been seen by more than 85 mil­lion peo­ple over­all and has helped deliv­er “a pow­er­ful mes­sage to young girls to help them main­tain con­fi­dence at puber­ty” and “inspired mil­lions of girls around the world to take action by shar­ing what they proud­ly do #LikeA­Girl,” which is show­cased in the most recent video.

In addi­tion, Always says its #LikeA­Girl cam­paign has also start­ed to change pub­lic per­cep­tion. Per Always’ research, before the cam­paign, 19 per­cent of females ages 16 to 24 had a pos­i­tive asso­ci­a­tion with the phrase “like a girl,” and, after watch­ing the video, 76 per­cent agree they will no longer view “like a girl” as an insult. In addi­tion, 59 per­cent of men said it changed their per­cep­tion of the phrase “like a girl.”

Accord­ing to Kiger, launch­ing the video with a brand­ed hash­tag as the name is part of a strong strat­e­gy.

It allows peo­ple to lean back at first and take in the set­up, but as you con­tin­ue to ref­er­ence it, lean into it and share it, you con­tin­ue to fuel its cause and own a piece of the cam­paign,” she said. “Great brands do just that. They stand for some­thing and give some­thing mean­ing­ful to their con­sumers, and some­times they can help change things for the bet­ter.”

Fur­ther, Kiger said it is only nat­ur­al for cam­paigns like this to sup­port Inter­na­tion­al Women’s Day, but they can also be part of year-long brand­ed efforts.

The great thing about cam­paign and efforts like these is that they can and should be ever­green,” she said. “They are move­ments and should live as long as need­ed.”

What’s your take on these brand­ed efforts for Inter­na­tion­al Wom­en’s Day?

Lisa Lacy

Written by Lisa Lacy

Lisa is a senior features writer for Inked. She also previously covered digital marketing for Incisive Media. Her background includes editorial positions at Dow Jones, the Financial Times, the Huffington Post, AOL, Amazon, Hearst, Martha Stewart Living and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

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