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Thursday Thinky: Women, Women & Women

Since last Sunday was International Women’s Day and it seems like every brand launched a campaign to capitalize on it, we decided to do a round up with the good & the bad from IWD.

Let us know what you think!



Creative & Brand


How Brands Acknowledged International Women’s Day (The Drum)

International Women’s Day was this past Sunday, and there was no shortage of brands chiming in on the conversation. While all of the recognition and empowerment that comes from these messages is wonderful, may of us at Media Cause can’t help but question if days like this are contributing to a culture of tokenism rather than real equality or acceptance. We have “days” and “months” to celebrate just about everything, from women’s rights to pepperoni pizza. Are these occasions (pizza notwithstanding) really helping to drive progress toward a more fair, equitable, and sustainable society, or are they just opportunities for brands to boost sales by doing lip service to the issue of the moment, and draft on the week of “woke” credibility they receive for their efforts? I’m personally torn. Either way, the trend isn’t going anywhere. But it’s interesting to keep the question in mind as you check out the round-up of IWD related campaigns The Drum recently shared. My take on a few of them:

– Orange Theory: Killer observation about IWD being literally the shortest day of the year (thanks to time change!), and how women always have and will continue, to do more with less. But the spot itself felt too much like a sales pitch to me. It lacked the momentum or emotion I would have hoped for from a brand that’s about perseverance and strength. I walked away not feeling inspired but feeling like there would be a $49 signup offer coming to my inbox tomorrow.

– Hershey’s: I love the packaging and the celebration of female artists—bringing this kind of community-created work into brand campaigns is nothing new, but it is something we could use more of in the NPO space. What I don’t understand quite as much, though, is Hershey’s connection to this conversation. Is it because of the stereotype (maybe accurately) that women love chocolate? While Orange Theory’s spot missed the mark inspirationally, it at least felt authentic for them to be in the mix for IWD. I’m less clear on the candy bar connection.

– Mindspace: Not bragging–I did solve the riddle before they revealed the answer. But this simple exercise exposed a pretty common, yet unconscious bias among people from all cultures. I appreciate that an agency created this on their own behalf, rather than for a brand. It shows they believe in the merits of the conversation enough to dedicate unpaid time to exploring it. But could they have done more by also including a call to action? Or even an organizational pledge to only work with companies who are actively engaged in changing the gender balance? It’s always important to not just talk the talk, but walk the walk.

– And then one that doesn’t appear in the roundup but was worth sharing–this spot promoting women’s financial empowerment from BMO (Bank of Montreal) and FCB Canada. The story may be expected, but what it lacks in novelty it makes up for in sentiment. They also took the message one step further by creating a landing page that aggregated (presumably all existing) content around the topic of women and finance, making it easy for viewers to learn about their stance and beliefs, and find some educational pieces, to boot. This effort is one of the more solid ones.



United Nations – Taking on Gender Equality (Campaign Live)

From Amy (SVP Creative + Brand Strategy): Every year for IWD, UN Women releases a campaign highlighting how far we still have to go as a society to achieve true gender equality. Some years’ work is better than others. For 2020, UNW worked with SF based agency Erich & Kallman to create an evolution story, of sorts, that doesn’t actually evolve—but that’s the point. What begins as a newscast in the 1950s describing the culture for working women ends in a modern-day newsroom telling the exact same story of the challenges and biases that exist. It presents an anti-contrast, which was supposed to be subtly eye-opening to how much hasn’t changed in the last 70 years. Where this fell flat, to me, was that the newsroom setup was contrived. I would bet money that if they had looked through real archived news footage, they could have found reports echoing the same current events back then as they are today. Between women earning less, no paid maternity leave in the US, all of the abortion bans and women’s rights marches, there should be a ton of real-life content to pull from. And as the UN, it seems as though they have the authority and credibility more than anyone else to go the editorial route. To me, THAT would have made a statement. That may have actually caused some jaws to drop. Instead, this one just caused a shrug, and I moved on.


United Nations Women – Ad Series Reveals Widespread Sexism (UN Women)

From Amy (SVP Creative + Brand Strategy): In contrast to the commentary above, UNW’s 2013 “The Autocomplete Truth” campaign (actually not related to IWD) effort may be one of my favorite campaigns of all time. Why? Because it was real. It was shocking. It exposed an truth about our society using a behavior we all engage in 100s of times a day: Googling something. (I don’t want to spoil the effect by summarizing it here–please check it out for yourself.) The creative is simple in execution, which is the sign of a really brilliant insight and idea. It didn’t need fancy props or production to hit its message home HARD. The photography and type do all of the heavy lifting, and the impact is powerful. This one left so much of an impression on me when it first came out that I still reference it in terms of how to leverage search insights to create work that really resonates. And 7 years later, it still does.





Nike – Delivering a message of empowerment  (Footwear News)

From Melvin (Account Director):As a skeptic of the dedicated “days” and “months” that we have to celebrate all kinds of things, I went on a quest to find a brand that made a point of not doing an International Women’s Day campaign. I found a lot of op-eds on the toxicity of IWD but it was actually difficult to find what I was looking for. Instead, I decided to go for the best campaign I could find that tried to convey that perspective. And, Nike was an easy pick.

The Oregon-based brand released a 47-second video called “One Day We Won’t Need This Day”. This video highlights all-time great female athletes like Serena Williams and Megan Rapinoe while also allowing room for the women who are looking up to them. The copywriting is simple but powerful, with a narrator reciting the following: “One day, we won’t need this day. We won’t need a day to celebrate how far we’ve come. We won’t need a day to prove we’re just as fast or strong or skilled. We won’t need a day to relive the comebacks, the firsts or the titles we’ve won. We won’t need a day to rally behind the ones fighting to change the rules. One day, we won’t need this day at all. Because one day this day will be our every day,”

To be clear, Nike has run into his fair share of issues on the topic, most notably, a public outrage was needed last year for them to change their policy about their sponsored athletes that are pregnant. But they’ve also been an important driver of conversation around gender equality and women empowerment. This last campaign falls in that second bucket. I applaud Nike because they had the guts to take a different route than most brands, especially their competitors. They’re not pushing special edition products, they’re not using a pink or purple color palette. They’re simply sending a message about how far we still have to come as a society, instead of using hiding behind a “day” or a “month”. Well done.





Save The Children – Girls LEAD ACT (Save The Children)

From Nicola Leckie (Account Director):Externally, Save the Children caught our attention. They ran a direct fundraising appeal with a $50,000 goal that ended Saturday, March 7 at midnight. The appeal was to support vulnerable children – both girls and boys, but “especially girls”. Then, on Sunday, the message pivoted to an advocacy call to action asking the audience to sign a petition to support the Girls LEAD Act – a bill that recognizes and promotes girls’ civic and political leadership. After signing the petition, you have the opportunity to download a fact sheet. It’s interesting that the petition signature didn’t lead to the fundraising ask. I wonder if there was an opportunity to tie the two campaigns more closely together? It appears that the advocacy emails were sent to nondonors of the campaign based on the tracked url – we’d love to know more about their strategy and results. 🙂

Honorable Mentions to the other few orgs we saw with campaigns: IRC, Heifer, and Center for Reproductive Rights. For 2021, an easy way to get involved would be to lean into the theme that the organizers of the event establish. This year’s theme was “An Equal World is an Enabled World”. How could your organization have highlighted this theme? Did you see any examples from nonprofits highlighting this theme or creating their own?





ICAN – ICAN Launches She Builds Peace (ICAN)

From Clara (Senior Advocacy Account Strategist):We’re in a world of problems, which makes it all the more refreshing when you find those rare solutions. One of those solutions is women peacebuilders and the extraordinary work they do all over the globe. What makes their work is so critical is that the solutions to all the other problems (climate change, economic growth, justice) are only possible if we have peace.

Since the start of 2020, we’ve been partnering with our friends at the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN) to create She Builds Peace, a global collaborative call to action to stand with women peacebuilders and ensure they can SOAR. As I’ve been working on this campaign, I’ve been struck by the stories of women peacebuilders—monumental figures of courage, leadership, and change-makers all. I realized that I’ve heard their stories every day of my life: stories of war-torn communities, rife with conflict and brimming with extremism. But I also realized I had only heard half of their stories, and that the other half, the peacebuilding half, is the one that is defining—both for them and for all of us because their work touches all of us.

The peacebuilding half is the story we’re telling through She Builds Peace, and it’s the one we all need to know and in turn, help to tell ourselves. At the She Builds Peace launch event in Washington, DC (there have been and will be other events around the world!), I was in a room with peacebuilders from Syria and Afghanistan, the ICAN staff, the Norwegian Ambassador, and a host of others from completely diverse areas. Our common ground was that we all realize the critical role women play in creating peace and security, and we all want to make sure they have the seats at the table they need to counter violence and extremism. No matter who you are, you have a role to play in this second half of the story, the story of peacebuilders, and you can stand with us and with them as we build the world we want. Join us at https://www.shebuildspeace.org/.



There’s so much more to talk about when it comes to effectiveness and measurement…but that’s a post for another day. Thanks for reading today’s Thinky. See you next week!

PS: If any of the above made your wheels spin, we’d love to hear your thoughts — get in touch with us!

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