5 Ad Campaigns on Women’s Day We Need to Talk About

Ad campaigns often are wannabe, purpose washing and sometimes just fluff.

International Women’s day (IWD) advertisement campaigns always have a whimsical charm around them. Every corporate wants to sound inclusive. They try to make a mark among the noise present around International Women’s Day celebrations. It takes intense detailing and creativity that can get people clicking on them.

The campaigns could have easily called out on internalized misogyny, racism, or gender discrimination. However, few ad campaigns achieved their intent of high engagement, impact, and sometimes the corporate’s success.

A corporate is not an NGO. It exists to sell. I am not looking at the campaigns which are given out in public interest these are the ones that have a genuine intent to sell without coming off as too pushy or even showing their clear intention.

These ad campaign examples, a few relatively unknown in Google’s top ranked pages, in reverse chronological order of good intent, tried to strike a chord. Nevertheless, there were a few areas of improvement.

King of Wannabe campaigns.

A campaign with a star figure that could not pull off its intent.

Here is the video for you.

Source: YouTube, Levi’s India’s

The “When you take a step, we all move” ad features a prominent figure from Indian Cinema. The entire ad involves a group of women dancing for three-fourths of the time.

There is very little insistence on the work they do, what step they take to move, and the hindrances they face when moving. Only a couple of shots featuring a drummer, bike racer, and corporate worker actually show the vocational side of women.

It is depressing to know that women are yet again typecast in an ad focusing on IWD. They are treated like props. What more, the ad has crossed 12 million views on Instagram, having over 2500 comments. However, with an engagement score of just 16.06, I am glad the women gave the sales a wide berth it deserved.

What could be done-

  1. The only point of commonality between all the characters was the jeans, apart from some dancing. The ad could have come in better faith if it just did not focus only on the “partying” part.
  2. Focusing on a fair work-life balance by offering a wide range of office wear and party wear could have struck a really good response from the audience. They would have not just clicked the ad for the star status but converted them to sales.

With big shots from the movie, television, sports, and music industries who are breaking their glass ceilings and gender stereotyping, the BoAt campaign could be touted as the most vibrant one amongst the lot. Shot over Los Angeles and Mumbai, this campaign seems to have a really big budget to dig from.

Here is the video for you.

Source: YouTube, BoAt’s I am a rebel campaign.

Consequently, the returns should be promising.

BoAt released its new range of air pods, headphones, and headsets for the same. Coming in a range of funky colors, the ad could not have been a better reflection of the product range.

However, the engagement score for the ad is 18.74, according to Entropic Tek. This relatively lesser engagement score can only mean a lesser than or equal to several converts into sales. However, since the products discussed at hand are higher than the general mean price of 500–700 INR consumer headsets, the returns could be marginally higher. The competitive landscape in audio consumer tech has not had much success with campaigns as such. This does look like a win for BoAt.

One striking feature is stereotyping the idea of a woman who tries to defy the so-called norms in general. The fact is every person who is born identify as a minority gender on the planet always has a set of rigid rules to abide by. Anyone who breaks is not exactly a rebel. They are free spirits.

Here are the small statements the ad does not address-

  1. Women called rebelliously are typecast. Be it the vivid clothes, bold makeup, or the snarky smile, the reality is never portrayed in true essence.
  2. A rebel need not always make a bold signature with their outfit or materialistic persona. She does it with her charisma.
  3. The other pitfall could be using English for communication in the ad. People do not connect that easily in that language in India. This could also be the reason why Samsung and Apple just stick to voice-less theme music as a universal language of connection.

The ad campaign is replete with a black and white palette. It is symbolic of the historic conditioning women undergo. The ad wants to portray the gaps in financial awareness present between men and women in this society. Though the sample space of 30 people is not exactly representative of the society, it sure keeps the viewers hanging till the end.

Here is the video for you.

Source: YouTube, PayTM’s #FinanciallyEqual campaign.

An in-depth analysis by interviewing the people who made the ad campaign possible — Dentsu Impact with Ruchi Narain as the interviewer is available. It states that the intention behind standing out in the clutter of IWD campaigns. They wanted to drive dialogue without sounding too pushy. That apparently explains the questions which start generic and slowly move to the specific ones.

The campaign was tailor-made for social media.

Having over 4 million followers on Facebook’s Instagram and 1 million followers on Twitter, it just seemed they ticked the right boxes to engage consumer dialogue. The campaign crossed 200+ retweets, 12 lakh+ views, and multiple stories reshare.

But the story stops there. This was one of the few ads that seemed more like a social awareness initiative. However, it just gave the issue a different dressing and served it in a new platter. Apart from reiterating what we already know, there were no actionable solutions that PayTM could have provided.

Here are the thought threads I had when I looked at this video-

  1. Providing a few incentives would have definitely created a better buzz that can portray the corporate’s care for society.
  2. It makes us think if this really tokenism — where PayTM is giving an idea that it is doing things to avoid controversies, to put the corporate into a better position by calling itself ethical compared to its competitors?

Nevertheless, it is noteworthy that none of PayTM’s competitors, including fintech startups, and UPI’s could even come close to creating the buzz.

In its own league, Ikea used gamification for its woke advertising. Launching an interesting game called FiftyFifty, it catered to the urban crowd who mark the majority of its customer base. The online card game, which can be found on Ikea’s Instagram highlights, addresses the unfavorable division of unpaid work and domestic care at home. The launch of the game was preceded by Zara Larsson’s performance, who also is the ambassador for the campaign. The game is for couples, who answer simplistic questions (similar to PayTM) about the division of house chores, time spent in it, and lack of gratitude. What is more striking is the campaign ends by asking the players to sort their priorities again before they exit the game.

Here is the video for you.

Source: Youtube, Ikea’s FiftyFifty campaign.

Damn, I am a sucker for actionable viewpoints.

Ikea, being a global leader for home décor experiences and not exactly solutions, it is interesting that they extended their fundamental marketing strategy to a seemingly “no-product strategy-attached” women’s day campaign, involving both genders. The ad is not purpose — washing. The relationship marketing strategy can always try to go the good Samaritan way without sounding too preachy. The game is vivid. However, the engagement factor for the same seems to be less.

Here are my two cents-

  1. Could it have been better if Ikea has launched it using an area-specific personality than a universal one? If an Indian celebrity had played the game, I am sure the showbiz community would have followed suit.
  2. There were people in Ikea India’s comments section asking if there were any activities lined up for the Indian diaspora. Alas no.
  3. This is one such thing with International brands — not having region-centric marketing and only universal marketing strategies, which may not work in a few special cases like these.

I am definitely ranking it as one of the best ad campaigns this women’s day. It is purpose-driven, clear, and crisp. There is no overt scripted drama or cunning running within, at least from the outside. The video is short, with a mosaic of women only with their mouths visible. They urge women to open up about domestic abuse.

Here is the video for you.

Source: YouTube Unilever’s #Unmute campaign.

What more, this seems like the only ad campaign which has a newsroom release attached. The press release clearly states the statistics of women who have encountered social abuse and the number of officially reported cases. The release also states the different measures taken by the corporate to ensure a welcoming office culture for its female staff. Moreover, it has incentives in place that will help them to overcome challenges caused because they are females.

The ad campaign has actionable items -

  1. They have added links to the UN’s resource page to address domestic abuse.
  2. Their Global Domestic Violence and Abuse Policy ( a company policy document) for public view.

It does give an impression that they walk the talk and not another publicity stunt.

There is another face for the coin too. Unilever did not stop with this.

Always mired in criticism for their beauty and personal care brands that targeted women, which promoted white supremacy, they followed on with a campaign called “Positive Beauty”. This aims to foster the idea of inclusive beauty by removing the ridiculously high standards on which the brand is sold. Essentially it is trying to patch the stains caused by its earlier branding strategies that called some people (usually women) “normal” just because they did not conform to the corporate standards of beauty, and the others “overachieving” as a by-product of using their brand. Clean move to start all these in women’s history month.

I am late to the party, but here are some actionable viewpoints which you can gain only after the storm has died.

1. Ad campaigns focusing on minority gender need to be sensitized.

2. Purpose washing can be harmful in the long run. Not just the product but also the company needs to be purpose-driven.

3. People first need to trust a brand before investing in them. To win that over, stop being a wannabe and state the truth. Give your customers a helping hand to add value to their lives.

4. It does not matter how much you invest in an ad campaign unless you follow on with your customers and do year-long activities that actually drive the product selling.

Resources used:

  1. Engagement factor report
  2. Aforementioned corporate’s public domain webpages.

About the author: I am Vijayalakshmi Swaminathan, a digital design engineer( I make stuff that runs your computer). I like to write about hardware, movies, and life experiences. You can connect with me here.

I read, learn and create! Always up for engaging conversations about anything! Do connect with me on https://www.linkedin.com/in/vijayalakshmiswaminathan/