When Advertising Supports Women

March 8 is International Women’s Day, so this column is devoted to projects that support and celebrate them.

yoluyla Mark Tungate , Adforum

It’s always good to kick off with something upbeat, so let’s begin this compilation with an anthem from sportswear brand Athleta. Founded in 1998 and owned by Gap since 2008, its pieces are all designed with active women and girls in mind. And it has an empowering slogan: “The Power of She.”

Last year, Colombian malt beverage brand Pony Malta decided to inspire young women via one of their favourite social hangouts: Tik Tok. While many Tik Tok performers are considered role models by girls, the brand wanted to raise the bar. So it took the platform’s popular dubbing feature and allowed users to “dub” themselves with the speeches of some truly inspiring women, including Michelle Obama, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Malala Yousafzai. The agency was Mullen Lowe SSP3.

Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen a definite uptick in campaigns that address gender inequity, stereotyping and sexism. Here’s a powerful example from Germany, where the organisation “Terre Des Femmes” targeted rap music – which often features violently misogynistic lyrics. The #unhatewomen campaign took the words out of their context by having women read them, revealing their starkly hateful nature.

Two award-winning campaigns tackled inequity on the soccer field, where women’s teams are under-represented in the media. A campaign by Wunderman Thompson London changed the popular pub name The Red Lion to The Red Lioness – and challenged pubs all over the UK to screen games during the Women’s World Cup. As well as supporting women’s soccer, the initiative made the traditionally masculine environment of pubs more welcoming for female customers.

Meanwhile, back in Colombia, Leo Burnett and Aguila beer supported women’s soccer by making a popular male team play a match while wearing only half of the team’s iconic badge on their shirts. The other half was worn by the equivalent women’s team. The message? If you don’t support both male and female players, you’re only half a fan.

Here’s an idea that will have you on the edge of your seat. Wanting to address the disgrace of coin-operated tampon dispensers in women’s restrooms (half of which are either empty or broken), the US agency Huge and the brand Period installed coin-operated toilet paper dispensers in guys’ restrooms. If they didn’t have change, they could pay with a tweet supporting the campaign. The result became an amusing online video with a serious message.

In the era of purpose-driven advertising, it was inevitable that major brands would come out with messages of female empowerment. One of the most convincing examples is “Face Anything”, from Olay and Badger & Winters – the agency co-founded by Madonna Badger, herself a powerful voice for women’s rights.

While we’re at it, let’s zip back in space-time to Olay’s Super Bowl ad from last year, a tongue-in-cheek spot featuring a brace of women astronauts (and TV journalist Katie Couric).

Finally, we return to the tone of the first piece with a new and uplifting spot from Mastercard and McCann XBX. It encourages consumers to support businesses run by black women entrepreneurs – and the ad is only a fraction of the story. It heralded Mastercard’s “Strivers Initiative”, which aims to support black women business owners (who are among the hardest hit by the pandemic) in part through a grant programme. While you reflect on this laudable initiative, you can also enjoy a classic song interpreted by Jennifer Hudson.