Every year in March for Women’s History Month, the ad world begins to roll out campaigns to support the empowerment of women, both present and past. And, each year The National Women’s History Alliance selects a theme to celebrate. The theme for 2020 was “Valiant Women of the Vote” honoring “the brave women who fought to win suffrage rights for women, and for the women who continue to fight for the voting rights of others.” It’s an aptly chosen theme at a time when we’re still fighting to get a female president on the ballot, nevermind in office. Perhaps the committee is choosing it to serve as a reminder of the way women have fought for their rights throughout history, and that the fight we did not elect to start, is still roughly just beginning. A bit of fuel for our fire, if you will.
While not all ads choose to adhere to the yearly theme, there were several this year that knocked it out of the park, and we wanted to highlight those for you (specifically our top five favorites!). These were the campaigns that we felt were daring, poignant, and pushed the boundaries of what it means to “act” like a woman (another recent theme in Women’s History Month campaigns, like this one, “She’s a Lady” by H&M).
Imagine What You Can Do With More
This campaign from the brilliant minds at Tombras was done for Orangetheory Fitness. Turns out that this year, Women’s Day was chosen to be on the same day as Daylight Savings, leaving women with one hour less to celebrate. To capitalize on this, the ad is written from the perspective of what women could do if they didn’t “settle for less” presenting the idea that “even when the world thinks it can give women less, Orangetheory believes everyone is free to have more.” Previous to this campaign, Tombras was hired to elevate the brand with their More Life campaign, leading to exponential growth for the company.
Be a Lady
If you were connected to a device around Women’s Day, it’s very likely that you’ve seen this viral ad, starring activist and actress Cynthia Nixon. The campaign for Girls.Girls.Girls. Magazine employs the words of Camille Rainville in a poem of the same name. Nixon narrates over a barrage of images highlighting the contradictions women face in society every day within the context of how they are told to “be” and act and look. The text in combination with the juxtaposing images, emphasizes the confusion and pressure put on women in relation to how to dress, how to eat, how to be beautiful, and how to stay in line. As an example, Cynthia reads the phrase “Don’t be intimidating,” and we see an image of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez appear. She goes on later with the phrase “don’t say yes, don’t say no” and an image of Harvey Weinstein is flashed up on the screen. Without highlighting more, we’ll just say it’s incredibly powerful and effective, and if you haven’t watched it, you should. This spot was directed by Paul McLean and produced by Claire Rothstein.
Make Them Count
From the creatives at Bonfire Labs, this ad for Ancestry.com follows the theme for 2020 highlighting the suffragette movement, and women’s impact on their own right to vote. Through a slide show of images from the movement and the women who were the leaders of it, we hear a narration asking questions of who the women were that “fought for you” and “who demanded to be seen?” Text appears on the screen to bring home the theme: “100 years ago our grandmothers did not have an equal right to vote. We do,” followed by “Find your family’s connection to this moment in history at Ancestry.com.” The ad is powerful and simple, urging us to connect to the trailblazers from the women’s movement, and perhaps find our own personal connection to them through our family history.
A campaign that began in 2019 from Catalyst and Burns Group, made a second appearance in 2020. The campaign promotes a Slack plugin, updated by Willow Tree, which “tags unconscious bias in real-time conversations on work-based chat platforms.” In other words, the plugin suggests alternative word replacements when it detects gender stereotyping words in a conversation. The feature is eye-opening, and serves as a helpful (and needed) reminder that we can all pay more attention to the way we label each other. The campaign expanded this year to include men as well, because gender-limiting language can happen on both sides of the equation. Go to the #BiasCorrect page to watch their powerful video, learn more information, and download that plugin to start using more gender-neutral language in your own conversations.
Behind The Mac
From TBWA Media Arts Lab, the agency that is self-titled “The Disruption Company,” comes this play on a format which has already been established for previous Apple advertisements, but adapted for this year’s Women’s Day. The campaign features a slideshow of several aspirational (and recognizable) women from an array of professions including film, music, fashion, politics, and more. This slideshow shows candid, black and white, shots of these amazing women all working behind the screen of a Mac. Beyonce’s “Flawless” Feat. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s voice from her infamous Ted Talk about feminism plays. A powerful combination of imagery and sound. TBWA knows that this formula works, making it a simple and intelligent choice for their Women’s Day campaign.
More Ads, More Thoughts
There were many great campaigns to choose from this year, but if you’re interested in a standout collection from 2020 and previous years, they can be found here. Until next year, we’re looking forward to an industry where these ads can happen throughout the months, and not be reserved mostly for one. To wrap up Women’s History Month for 2020, we’ll say we’re getting better, but we’ve got a lot of room to grow.