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IWD: the ads that are shaping our future

Mar 08, 2019
International Women’s Day is much more than an annual celebration of women and their achievements – it’s a way of raising awareness against bias, taking action for equality, and in turn, building a more gender-balanced world. The IWD campaign theme this year is #BalanceforBetter, and we’re looking at how some brands have used their platform in a bid to level the playing field.

First stop, the sport industry. No other sector on the planet is so separate in terms of gender, and yet so widely accepted. A survey carried out last year reported that an incredible 40% of women in the sport industry face gender discrimination. So with eyes currently on the England Women’s football team – who took home the winning title for the SheBelieves Cup just this week – now seems like the perfect time to open up the conversation on inequality.

Nike decided to speak out against the status quo in their powerful new campaign ‘Dream Crazier’. The ad that aired at this year’s Oscars highlights the stereotypes that still exist for women in sport, then defies them by showcasing female sporting heroes dunking, coaching, having babies and then ‘coming back for more’. But beyond the shots that exist mainly within sporting stadiums, and the moving narration by tennis icon Serena Williams, ‘Dream Crazier’ tackles issues much greater than sport – because the message behind it can be applied to the experiences of all women, from all walks of life.

While we’re not all award-winning athletes, women still face their own sporting challenges in everyday life – something that Sport England tried to address in their This Girl Can campaign. Like Nike, their ad focused on the faces of women participating in basketball, football and other forms of exercise, but this time, they were found on the kind of bodies we can all better relate to – the ones that jiggle, sweat, and come in all sizes. It might only last 90 seconds, but this powerful ad is one that encourages women to shed their insecurities and exercise for the pure enjoyment of it all – resulting in a truly motivational piece.

Body shaming doesn’t only exist in the arena of sport either. Research shows that 90% of women aged 18 to 25 expect their bodies to stack up to the air-brushed and enhanced celebrities in the media – and over 80% of mothers in the UK compare their post-baby body to the same unrealistic ideals. These insecurities stem from a lack of representation – and Mothercare is one company that’s trying to change that in their latest campaign. It’s made up of 10 untouched images that celebrate the natural bodies of real-life mothers. C-section scars and stretchmarks are bared in all their glory, encouraging women to embrace the features they’ve been led to believe are imperfections.

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One final campaign that sparked conversation worldwide was made by UN Women in a bid to highlight the discrimination that still exists in modern society. Contrasting to the above ad that focuses on the female form, The Autocomplete Truth looks within to explore the achievements of women over time; women who fought for the right to vote, who redefined politics, and who shouldered our economy during times of difficulty. It then switches to the shocking autofill results of a real-life Google search, finishing with a simple but unmistakably powerful statement – ‘women should be seen as equal by now’. Take a look at the video here.

It could be argued that marketing like this could works to exploit important movements for the sake of profit. But in a world where we’re exposed to thousands of adverts every day, it’s these very campaigns that have power to shape our future.