It’s been a year of momentum for women’s movements, and while critics might complain that it’s “gone too far”, personally I’m feeling buoyed by the exposure that has been gained.
From Ireland’s ‘Together for Yes’ campaign success last month, to the #MeToo movement after the Harvey Weinstein scandal, women’s voices are acting as agents of change, especially in male-dominated arenas where they can often be overlooked.
In the political sphere, the ‘Together for Yes’ campaign offered a breath of fresh air. We have tended to see political campaigns practice a ‘hearts over minds’ approach, using rhetoric to appeal to voters.
However, while this 10-week campaign did draw on the emotional tug of the stories of the women who would be affected most by the change in law, the repetitive messaging was underpinned by the credible support of medical professionals.
The group’s focus on inclusivity – including a national ‘conversation tour’ which encouraged people to discuss their views without fear of disparagement – served to garner the support of nearly 100 disparate, but pro-repeal, groups for the campaign.
In the cultural arena, the underlying exploitation by Hollywood’s tycoons provided the momentum for the #MeToo movement, which chose social media as its soapbox.
The idea was actually created over a decade ago, by US charity pioneer Tanara Burke, who began it as a campaign on MySpace to highlight sexual assault in minority culture. The extraordinary pick-up globally on social media over the last year demonstrates the simplicity and effectiveness of the idea, which has let to Ms Burke being honoured as the Communicator of the Year at this year’s US PRWeek Awards.
Zoopla’s advert on the underground at the time of the #MeToo movement is a classic example of where brands should recognise how and when to engage. The ad, which featured a series of their hermit crab mascots saying ‘Me Too’ to selling their house on the site, was subject to a storm of social media backlash and complaints to the Advertising Standards Agency. An important note to all: try not to trivialise a global issue as a light-hearted sales pitch – it doesn’t go down too well.
Where it perhaps came as more of a pleasant surprise, however, is with Barbie’s makeover. In response to claims of being out-of-touch and sexist, toymaker Mattel transformed the doll from vapid fashionista into a world of female possibility.
Their ‘dads who play Barbie’ campaign captured not only the reality of the modern dad-daughter relationship, but it also placed the Barbie as the agent of the little girls’ dreams: as doctor, businesswoman, astronaut. The ads are part of the ongoing ‘Imagine the Possibilities’ positioning which, in press materials, cites research showing that girls who have loving and supportive relationships with their fathers from early childhood are less likely to suffer from self-confidence and self-reliance issues as adults.
Then came this year’s International Women’s Day special edition dolls which – despite facing some backlash for ‘whitewashing’ and aligning the dolls to traditional beauty standards – offered unprecedented diversity from the manufacturer. Again, cleverly backed by potent research showing that 81% of mothers worry about the role models presented to their daughters, Mattel offered 17 dolls of famous women through the ages, including Frida Kahlo, Katherine Johnson, Nicola Adams and Amelia Earhart. The campaign’s successful formula has netted a huge amount of attention across the world and is a testament to how a brand listening to its audience and attuned to cultural shifts can reap rewards.