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Daughters of the Evolution used AR to change the face of American history textbooks

Goodby Silverstein & Partners created a revolutionary augmented reality app for it clients, Daughters of the Evolution. Called 'Lessons in Herstory', it achieved outstanding results and changed the face of history textbooks in America. Read more about this entry, which won the Grand Prix at US arm of The Drum Awards for Marketing in 2020.

The challenge

Daughters of the Evolution is a new, California-based nonprofit organization, founded by a board of young women. To accompany its launch, the board wanted campaign to champion the voices and ambitions of the next generation of women leaders, helping them build a world in which to thrive. Faced with the unrelenting persistence of gender inequality in society, Daughters of the Evolution approached Goodby Silverstein & Partners to finding a solution that would get to the root of gender inequality - before it manifests in career glass ceilings, pay gaps and all its other consequences.

The strategy

Knowing they had to get to the root of the problem, the team looked to when our identity formation is most vulnerable. Psychoanalysts (particularly Erik Erikson, with his theory of developmental stages) point to it being during adolescence - when people first ask themselves what they will be when they grow up, and look for heroes and mentors on which to model themselves.

They also encountered troubling data, that fewer than 11% of history-textbook references are about women. The consequences of that imbalanced gender representation are severe. Myra and David Sadker, the authors of Failing at Fairness: How America’s Schools Cheat Girls, put it well: “When girls do not see themselves in the pages of textbooks, our daughters learn that to be female is to be an absent partner in the development of our nation.”

The campaign's goal became clear: to illuminate the stories of women in history, so that adolescents can see the full picture of who has contributed to society and what might therefore be possible for them. But one major challenge was convincing textbook companies to rewrite, reprint and redistribute textbooks across America.

This required a creative solution, bringing the objective to life without physically changing textbooks. Augmented reality technology presented a simple and effective way to hijack other media, from textbooks to statues and beyond.

The campaign

With the power of AR, and the expertise of New York Times bestseller and feminist historian Kate Schatz, the team was able to rewrite one of the most popular US history textbooks - without changing the physical textbook at all. With the 'Lessons in Herstory' app, students are able to scan any photo of any man in their textbook and unlock a related story about a forgotten woman in history.

For example, when a student scans a photo of Abraham Lincoln, they unlock a story about Rebecca Pomroy, a remarkable woman who is almost always left out of Lincoln’s narrative despite the fact that she played a major role in his success. In order to bring these stories of powerful women to life and engage the school-aged audience, the designs featured colorful illustrations and engaging animations. These created a start contrast to the existing textbooks, many of which not changed in decades and are far from fresh in appearance.

The results

Within its first month, Lessons in Herstory earned 88mn impressions and over 21,000 downloads. And on July 23, 2019, it was named the Apple App of the Day, lending an additional 7mn impressions.

It’s also been adopted in schools and implemented in curricula across seven US states. History institutions in the United States have approached the team regarding partnerships, leading to talks with the Smithsonian Institution about the possibility of launching its own version of the app. The campaign successfully reached students across the country, empowering many with new knowledge.

It even attracted the attention of notable global organizations, such as UN Women and the World Economic Forum. Presenting the campaign at the Global Summit of Women in Switzerland increased it reach from national to global, and amplifying the conversation around gender equality.

Impressively, this all happened with zero dollars of media spend.

“This app is the future. It is allowing students to realize that our history is not just contained to the pages of a textbook.” — Olivia Myers, 7th-grade teacher, Leo Adams Middle School, Texas

“History to my students can sometimes feel very distant, dry and irrelevant. Being able to make content relevant to their own lives, both in representation historically as well as through a modern medium, I think is very helpful!” — Mariah Gower, 7th-grade teacher, West Buffalo Charter School, New York

"I like this because it shows that women did everything that the men did, and when a woman couldn’t attend a school, she started one herself!" — Student from Kathleen Wilson’s 7th-grade class, Leo Adams Middle School, Texas

This project was a winner at The Drum Awards for Marketing 2020, which are currently open for entry. To find out more about The Drum Awards, click here.

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