Femship Brand Bastions
Brands that are making friends and influencing people with their moral mission of opening minds about social wrongs and disempowering prejudices
A challenging reality facing marketers and advertisers is that a brand’s commercial values and its societal values are so intertwined in consumer value perceptions, that they cannot be separated.
For companies to succeed in this critically discerning environment, they will have to ensure that their brands stand for a higher purpose, and how the company operates is aligned internally and publicly to that higher purpose.
In reality brands only exist in the minds of consumers, and if there’s no perceived higher value, there is no ‘Brand’ worthy of the name, merely another undiscerning, product or service distinguishable only by its logo from all the others on offer.
To achieve brand preference stature and consumer kinship, advertisers will have to embrace social goodwill initiatives with integrity and bravery, no matter how controversial, or uncomfortable they may be for many ultra-conservative thinkers and devotees of patriarchy.
The #MeToo Movement
A case in point are the globally topical issues of gender equality and protectionism from sexual harassment that have taken center stage as never before, and rightly so.
Thanks to Tarana Burke, a civil rights activist from The Bronx, New York, who started the #MeToo movement in 2017 to heighten awareness about the pervasiveness of workplace and societal sexual abuses, epitomised by the revelations of the Harvey Weinstein trial, the movement rapidly gained momentous recognition and public support from around the world.
Many major brands and numerous NGO’s have bravely added their support in voicing their solidarity for feminine equity, and shown the way for others to follow.
They have initiated motivational advertising campaigns that honour the responsible societal roles women fulfill, acknowledges the pressures and prejudices they face, and endorse their need for confident, self-preserving empowerment.
1. Essity FemCare, Viva La Vulva
Advertising Agency: AMV BBDO, London, UK
Directed by Kim Gehrig, the integrated campaign for the Swedish Essity FemCare brand known as ‘Libresse’ in the Nordic counties, and ‘Bodyform’ in the United Kingdom, combines live action and animation in memorable and amusing vaginal metaphors.
The objective of Essity FemCare’s brand communication campaign is to break down those taboos, insecurities and stereotypes that women are subjected to when it comes to their genitals, and celebrate the vulva in all its beautiful forms.
The company believes that society has projected a myth about the perfect vulva for far too long. The feelings of insecurity and social awkwardness this has caused have prevented women from having a positive relationship with their bodies.
Publicly lauded by women globally on social media and numerous published articles, the multi award-winning ‘Viva La Vulva’ campaign, which includes several Cannes Lions and a 2019 Clio Grand Prix, features a resonant soundtrack of Camille Yarbrough’s “Take Yo’ Praise”.
2. Thinx, MENstruation
Advertising Agency: BBDO, New York, USA
Directed with commendable pathos by Rachel McDonald, this insightful idea for Thinx, the maker of ‘period-proof underwear’, imagines a world where men also experience periods.
The compelling human truth and thought provoking message is; “If we all had them, maybe we’d be more comfortable with them”.
3. HelloFlo and Always, First Moon Party
Written and directed by Jamie McClelland and Pete Marquis
This commercial is a lighthearted, insightful and bravely candid story about how one Mum coped with the emotionally delicate phase of her daughter’s biological development and peer group pressure.
4. MACMA Argentina, Man Boobs
Advertising Agency: David, Buenos Aires, Argentina
The David Agency, part of the Ogilvy & Mather network, and MACMA, Argentina’s Breast Cancer Help Movement’s advertising campaign, was a concerted endeavour to raise early awareness of breast cancer detention.
They realised that their objective would possibly necessitate defying social media censorship, as videos or images featuring any hint of nudity are blocked from Facebook and Instagram, even images relating to non-sexual activities such as breastfeeding.
The challenge facing Joaquin Cubria and Ignacio Ferioli, executive creative directors at David, was that getting women over 25 to check their cell phones every 5 minutes was easy, but to get them to examine their breasts regularly was a formidable task.
The solution required showing women a step-by-step technique of self-examination on naked breasts, real breasts, but that was being denied to them.
They decided to risk circumventing the censors by substituting ‘man boobs’ for naked female breasts in their commercial and made advertising history.
Directed by ‘1985 at Landia’ with Nicolas Hardy as Director of Photography, the campaign won a Cannes Gold Lion for Film and the 2016 Cannes Health Lions Grand Prix for Good.
48 million views were motivated in the first week and shared 700,000 times, becoming the most shared and viewed breast self-examination campaign ever.
5. MACMA Argentina, Everyone Loves Boobs
Advertising Agency: David, Buenos Aires, Argentina
The David Agency and MACMA, Argentina’s Breast Cancer Help Movement decided that what Breast Cancer Awareness required next was a bold, new approach to remove any lingering social stigmas about an affliction that can be avoided, or cured with early detection.
However, as Joaquin Cubria and Ignacio Ferioli, executive creative directors at David explained; “Censorship in social media is still an issue that has led us to look for new ways of creatively bypassing stipulated restrictions”.
This time they took the calculated risk of getting around the censors by replacing the forbidden nipples with singing mouths. It was a responsible risk that paid off handsomely.
The commercial, directed by ‘1985 at Landia’, is surreal and decidedly bizarre. Some viewers thought it to be grotesque, but it is undeniably a hugely memorable commercial that made headlines across the world for all the right reasons, and broke through many of the social barriers concerning Breast Cancer Awareness.
6. State Street Global Advisors, Fearless Girl
Advertising Agency: McCann, New York, USA
The ‘Brave Girl’ on Wall Street statue to commemorate International Women’s Day, received international acclaim. The resonance the inspirational symbolism of a young girl’s bravery achieved with women of all ages globally, vastly exceeded expectations.
The resultant social media responses highlighted the fact that online success can be very effectively motivated by a completely offline idea in a non- traditional media execution.
The statue generated over I billion Twitter impressions within 12 hours of its launch and that figure quickly increased to 4.6 billion, and in the following 12 weeks, 215,000 Instagram posts were also generated.
A truly remarkable online response from the public display of a small bronze statue that won a Cannes Lion, Titanium Grand Prix, for Advertising Communication creativity that transcends traditional media categories.
The ‘Fearless Girl’ campaign also won the Glass Lion Grand Prix for creative work that advances gender equality goals and initiatives.
Stephen Tisdalle, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of State Street Global Advisors had this to say about the rationale behind their phenomenally successful ‘Fearless Girl’ campaign to promote the proven power of having women in leadership:
“People admire brands that have conviction and stand for something that has a benefit to society”.
“No one wants to be marketed to. Instead, we sought to create a symbol for people from all walks of life, race, religion and creed to celebrate the power of women in leadership. This required an unconventional media approach”.
7. Fearless Girl, Case Study
In all, ‘Fearless Girl’ won 4 Cannes Grand Prix awards and 18 Cannes Lions making it one of the most highly honoured campaigns in the history of the Cannes Lion International Festival of Creativity.
8. Dove, Real Beauty Sketches
Advertising Agency: Ogilvy, São Paulo, Brazil
Dove’s powerful human insight that resonated with viewers is that in truth; “women are their own worst critics”. Research revealed that only 4% of women participants in a global study regarded themselves as being beautiful.
The aim of Dove’s integrated campaign was to convince women that they are more beautiful than they think. Filmed in a loft in San Francisco, the captivating, ducumentary-styled commercial, was directed with much pathos and sensitivity by John X Carey.
The story motivated emotive responses that were far-reaching. 15 million people downloaded the commercial within a week and it was shared in 660,600 posts on Facebook during the first ten days. At the end of three months it had been viewed an astonishing 163 million times on YouTube.
The campaign went on to win a Titanium Grand Prix the following year at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
9. Procter & Gamble’s Always, Like A Girl
Advertising Agency: Leo Burnett, Chicago, Toronto and London
The social activism experiment ‘Like A Girl’ is based on a powerful human truth that P&G identified as follows:
“Gender stereotypes are so ingrained in our culture, that they are even part of our language”.
“The expression ‘like a girl’ in fact, is often used as an insult to tease somebody who is weak, over-emotional or useless. If it happens to young girls at a time when identities are already very fragile, it can have a devastating effect”.
The societal impact of this Always brand initiative was huge. The launch commercial on YouTube was viewed more than 90m times and shared by over 1m teenagers.
Men and women all over the world joined the Always brand to help reclaim ‘like a girl’ as a positive statement and the #LikeAGirl hashtag skyrocketed on social media.
10. Dove Denmark, The Image Hack Case Study
Advertising, Media & Marketing Agency: Mindshare, Denmark
The Unilever Company pledged its support to Danish Advertising Agency Mindshare’s activist initiative to stamp out female stereotypes in brand advertising.
A Unilever press statement explained the motivation for their committed support as follows:
“As a global marketer Unilever plays a important part in how ‘genders’ are presented in the media”.
“Images that are not a true reflection of society and sexist portrayals of women, promote ideas that are demeaning and alienating instead of being uplifting”.
“68% of all women can’t relate to the imagery they see in advertising and we need to change that if we want consumers to have a positive feeling about our brands and foster brand kinship”.
“This is not only an issue of corporate responsibility and morality about making an actual difference to society, it’s also an economic issue”.
“We will create better advertising if we create brand communication that’s more progressive, relevant and resonant by challenging gender stereotypes”.
The case study reminds me of an aptly insightful quote from AdContrarian author, blogger and internationally renound public speaker Bob Hoffman; “Good ads appeal to us as consumers. Great ads appeal to us as humans”.