As the conversation around women’s rights takes center stage under the current administration, brands ranging from Audi to Jack Daniels are scrambling to appeal to women in a way that feels genuine and earnest. For those who might need a little inspiration, look no further than Eileen Matthews, an LA-based freelance copywriter who is spending 100 days coming up with clever feminist taglines for big-name brands.
Called ‘100 Days of Feminist Ads,’ the Instagram project, which Matthews launched earlier this month, features a different feminist brand slogan every day. She kicked off the project with a tagline for Pay Day - “Still Totally Nuts” - and has since dreamed up others for the likes of Advil, Windex and Snickers.
This isn’t the first time that Matthews, who has done stints at agencies including Mal\For Good and Y&R, has taken on this sort of challenge. In 2015, she and her former art director Cristina Vanko were nominated for a Shorty Award for their ‘100 Things That Should Die’ Tumblr blog.
Both projects were inspired by artist Elle Luna’s “The 100 Day Project,” which she launched in 2014 in hopes of encouraging people to do one thing every day for one hundred days.
The Drum recently chatted with Matthews to hear more about her project and get her thoughts on which brands she thinks are actually doing a good job of advertising to women.
What made you want to start this project?
The idea just kind of came to me. I’m an ad girl so I think in terms of headlines and touchlines. With the current political landscape, it felt like an interesting approach to play with ways brands could take a stand on certain issues if they wanted to.
How are you going about choosing which brands to feature?
Honestly, there's no rhyme or reason — just whatever comes to me in brainstorming sessions. Sometimes I’ll see an ad first and think, ‘okay, that’s an interesting campaign, how could I adapt that?’ In other cases, it’s just a joke that comes to me and I will try to find a brand where that joke would be most relevant.
Are you hoping that any of the brands featured might reach out to you after seeing this?
I hadn’t really thought about that before. I think it would be great if a brand saw this and liked what I was doing and decided to take action or have more of a voice in the women’s movement. I guess I’m hoping to engage more of the creative advertising community in this effort and get people talking.
Why did you decide to use the ‘100 Day’ format for this particular project?
I like the 100 Day Project because it’s an already built-up community. I’m someone who can’t go work out on my own, I need to go take a class where other people are holding me accountable. So that’s why I really enjoyed doing the 100 Day Project the first time and why it made sense for me to jump into it again this year by myself without an art director helping me out. It’s about just committing to something and sharing your voice creatively. If this does become something where I’m still invigorated after 100 days and I still want to continue, I’m not going to stop. But I think it’s a good challenge for the time being.
In the real world, are there any brands that you think are currently doing a good job of advertising to women?
I know I did an ad for Nike already, but I actually think that Nike does a pretty good job. Especially with their new hijab clothing line, I think [they are] taking a stand and being bold and going where other brands are maybe afraid to go. I admire Nike for it. They’re always ahead of the curve in that world, as far as empowering women or showing women in empowering situations. I think Dove, too, has done a great job de-stigmatizing what beauty looks like.
Diversity and gender equality are both huge issues within the industry right now. As a woman working in advertising, what has your experience been like?
I’ve encountered creative directors who have said some really insulting things to me. I’ve also encountered a lot of great, powerful, smart, funny women who have worked their way up and done amazing things. I think that it’s definitely harder for women in advertising but I think that it’s important for us to, even if we don’t have an outlet at the workplace, do our own shit in our spare time. And that’s why I’ve taken to doing a lot of personal projects in my spare time rather than in an office space. Because sometimes ideas don’t always get through, as every creative can tell you.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.