17 marketing campaigns for women

Today is International Women’s Day, which got me thinking about how women are represented in the marketing and advertising space.

Now, I know plenty of brands have had a negative impact when it comes to women’s issues (remember that ‘beach body ready’ campaign?), but others are actually doing some good, so I’m going to focus on them.

Chloe McKenna wrote a fantastic post a few weeks back about social media campaigns that celebrate women, so I won’t cover any of those in this post.

But I am going to talk about 17 other marketing campaigns I’ve seen that depict a positive message about women.

Incidentally, Econsultancy’s latest research shows that women get paid significantly less than men in the marketing industry.

1. Women’s Aid – interactive digital billboards

Domestic abuse charity Women’s Aid used experiential marketing to make people stop and take notice of the issue in a Masters of Marketing award-winning campaign.

It put up interactive out-of-home (OOH) ads featuring a picture of a beaten and bruised woman.

The more people who stopped and looked at the poster, the more quickly the woman’s injuries would disappear.

Women's Aid interactive billboard

The campaign results:

  • Average time people spent looking at the posters was 349% higher than the previous average measured across the same sites.
  • 2,500% increase in people stopping to watch for more than 10 seconds.
  • PR reach of 326.9m people, with 70 broadcasters, newspapers and online portals covering the campaign.
  • Media companies from all quarters of the consumer press – from Mashable and Upworthy to The Telegraph, Time Out and Huffington Post – ran the story.
  • Coverage in 20 countries, from Australia to Russia, with prime-time bulletins on American news stations NBC, CBS and ABC.
  • 86.7m impressions on Twitter alone.

2. Always – Like a Girl

This video asked people to do things ‘like a girl’, such as running, throwing and so on – first adults and then children.

The adults’ actions reflected the fact that the phrase ‘like a girl’ is often used as an insult, whereas the children who had perhaps not yet been exposed to the phrase just carried out the actions normally.

3. Fanpage.it – Slap Her

Another video highlighting the absurdity of violence against women, in which the filmmakers put young boys in front of young girls and ask the boys to slap the girls.

The boys’ reactions highlight how violence against women is not something natural but rather a learned behaviour.

4. Dove – Real Beauty

There is an enormous amount of pressure on women to look a certain way, thanks in no small part to the way marketing and advertising has portrayed them over the years.

As a result, many women have an unjustifiably low opinion of the way they look.

Dove attempted to highlight this issue in this emotional video campaign, showing women the stark difference between two drawings of themselves – one they created and another drawn by a forensic artist specially trained to produce realistic portraits of people.

5. Dove – Speak Is Beautiful

Dove continued the theme of negative self-image in women with this powerful visual piece.

The video shows a number of tweets from women making negative comments about their looks or their body, and suggests a simple way we can change the discourse.

6. Dove – Evolution

While we’re on the subject of Dove it’s probably worth mentioning the brand’s 2006 ‘Evolution’ campaign, in which it highlights the completely unrealistic standards of beauty that the media and advertising imposes upon women.

The video – which shows a woman being made-up, touched up in post-production and then featured on a billboard ad – prompted a massive reaction when it aired, and rightly so.

7. Cardstore – World’s Toughest Job

This clip is cleverly done, and it’s one for anybody who looks down on women who choose to stay at home and raise their family (not sure why you would, but some people are just weird).

I’m sure you’ve all seen it already, and I hope you have because I totally just spoiled the twist.

8. FCKH8 – Potty Mouthed Princesses Dropping F-Bombs For Feminism

Don’t watch this if you’re not keen on swearing, or small children swearing in particular, although you should probably just watch it anyway because it carries a strong message.

The idea is that people watching it will be more shocked by a kid saying the F-word than statistics highlighting massive gender inequality.

9. Sport England – This Girl Can

Can’t argue with this one. Upbeat compilation of women flat-out smashing it in a variety of sports.

The campaign was designed to encourage women to exercise without fear of judgement, and is also reflective of the rise in female sports stars in recent years.

10. Microsoft – Girls Do Science

The lack of women going into STEM subjects is a serious issue, particularly when there is a looming skills shortage in those industries.

This clip from Microsoft shows several young girls talking about their love for science and some of the comments people have made because of this.

Microsoft sent them each a letter urging them to carry on and ‘create something great for us one day’.  11. Gisele Bündchen– I Will What I Want

This video shows the comments model Gisele Bündchen received in real-time as she punched and kicked a punching bag.

The comments appear on the walls around her, and as you can see the majority are pretty derogatory.

12. My Pale Skin – You Look Disgusting

You could argue that influencers invite attention as part of their job, but nobody deserves the kind of comments Em, AKA YouTube star My Pale Skin, received when she showed her face without makeup and revealed her acne.

This video is clever in the fact that it shows the transition between the comments people made when Em had no makeup on and the very different comments she received when she did have it on.

13. Mercy Academy – Not a Princess

I have told my wife repeatedly and only half-jokingly that if we ever have a daughter I am imposing a strict ban on all princess-related items (I know, what a killjoy).

Whether I win that argument or not remains to be seen, but this video certainly highlights my point.

The campaign from a Kentucky all-female Catholic school urged girls to forget the whole princess thing and prepare for real life instead. Powerful stuff.

mercy academy not a princess campaign

mercy academy not a princess campaign

mercy academy not a princess campaign

14. Pantene – Labels Against Women

This clip from Pantene in the Philippines highlights how a man and a woman performing the same action can be viewed in two completely different ways.

The campaign is particularly focused on the workplace, where a strong female leader might be viewed as ‘bossy’ whereas the male equivalent would likely never be given that label.

15. Goldieblox – Princess Machine

Another attack on the awful princess thing, this time from GoldieBlox – a company that makes toys and games designed to develop girls’ interest in engineering and problem-solving.

The video depicts a ‘princess machine’ built by a team of young girls using a range of engineering principles.

16. Tanishq – A Wedding to Remember

Widowed and divorced women in India have historically been treated as outcasts, but this ad from jewellery brand Tanishq aimed to reject that notion.

The clip shows a woman marrying for the second time, and her husband displays love and respect for both his wife and her young daughter. A simple but important message.

17. Votes for Women – 1909 suffragette poster

One of the oldest examples of female empowerment in marketing (and obviously not digital), this 1909 poster for the suffragette newspaper Votes for Women became one of the most iconic pictures from the suffragette movement.

Votes for Women suffragettes poster 1909

What have I missed?

These were the campaign that sprang to mind when I was writing this post, but let me know of any good ones I’ve missed in the comments below.

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