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International Women’s Day: the good and the bad from brands ‘embracing equity’

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By The Drum | Editorial

March 8, 2023 | 11 min read

From a trans woman ambassador at Hershey’s to Miller Lite composting sexist ads, here’s how brands are marking International Women’s Day 2023.

IWD

Is the representation of women in advertising improving?

International Women’s Day aims to raise awareness of women’s achievements and challenges. This year’s theme is #EmbraceEquity.

It also presents a chance for brands to show how they’re promoting gender equity in creative ways. However, some of their efforts have faced backlash. Below, we explore campaigns from brands in North America and the UK.

PepsiCo

Just as Kendall Jenner dismantled racism when she handed that police officer a Pepsi, now the brand has done it again. This time, solving sexism with... personalised delivery trucks.

The 'She is PepsiCo' campaign spotlights women in manufacturing and operations in North America-Wide celebration of Women’s History Month. Images of 28 PepsiCo frontline employees – including truck drivers, warehouse staff and merchandisers – will replace traditional beverage brands on sides of trucks servicing North America.

She is PepsiCo from PepsiCo Corporate on Vimeo.

Lottie London

Makeup has helped many trans women explore their identity and feel confident in their authentic selves, but the makeup industry has not always had adequate representation. With its IWD campaign, Lottie London aims to promote equity within the #LottieSquad – its community that has been working with trans creators and campaign models since launch.

The #embraceTRANSition campaign aims to give a platform to trans women, kicking off on International Women’s Day and running through the whole of March for Women’s Month. Highlighting the experiences of trans women through their transition journey and sharing their experience.

lottie london

Ford

In celebration of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, Ford has released a tongue-in-cheek campaign entitled ’The Ford Explorer Men’s Only Edition.’

Surprisingly, the spot celebrates the significant role women have played in the auto industry, highlightingthe many essential features women developed, such as heaters, windshield wipers, turn signals and rear-view mirrors, among others.

The automaker is also spotlighting the achievements and contributions of female innovators overs the years across Ford.com and its social accounts.

SheSays

IWD

SheSays, the global careers and mentorship creative network for women and non-binary people, has launched a social campaign that shows the real reasons why women and non-binary people are resigning from roles within creative industries and answers the question ‘why has she gone?’.

The visual campaign, which is a series of six resignation letters, was created from insights shared by over 100 women and non-binary people within the advertising, marketing, and media industries, in various positions, to expose the truth behind why they are leaving jobs. With 71% leaving roles and 55% stating the experiences ‘increased their mental health issues around stress, anxiety and depression.’

Barbie

barbie dolls of different women in STEM

According to the United States Census Bureau, women make up less than one-third of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) workforce, and girls are systemically tracked away from the fields throughout their education.

To inspire girls to pursue Stem fields, Mattel-owned toy brand Barbie created dolls modeled after global female leaders from around the world, including Susan, Anne, and Janet Wojcicki.

The brand will also pay tribute to the role models in a special episode of the Barbie You Can Be Anything web series.

Häagen-Dazs

Haagen Dasz

Nothing says #Girlboss like a pint of ice cream, amirite ladies?

Ice cream giant Häagen-Dazs is celebrating International Women’s Day 2023 with the launch of the Rose Project: a $100,000 bursary to support trailblazing unsung women, a global rebrand and the biggest free scoop giveaway in the brand’s history in honor of its female founder.

Häagen-Dazs was created in 1960 by Reuben and Rose Mattus, but while Reuben was widely celebrated for creating the best quality products and flavors, Rose was the business and marketing pioneer who ran the business behind the scenes so her husband could become successful. The celebrations for International Women’s Day aim to shine a light on Rose’s unsung contribution to the brand and her #DontHoldBack ethos.

CPB London

IWD campaign

New research has revealed that one in five British men has no problem using sexist language. The research, commissioned by creative agency CPB London ahead of International Women’s Day, found that men are most likely to use sexist language to ‘be funny’ and one in five use it to show camaraderie and bond with others.

In light of the research, CPB London has launched a campaign titled ’Double Standards,’ which explores how women and men may exhibit the same behavior, but that behavior is often labeled differently. For example, assertive v bossy, ambitious v pushy, passionate v hysterical and player v slut.

The work rolled out in advance of IWD as outdoor advertising nationwide as well as across digital and social media.

Hershey’s

Hersheys

As part of its ’Her for she’ program, Hershey’s Canada launched a limited-edition range featuring packaging that told the story of one of its four ambassadors who are making changes in their communities. Its products detailed the ambassadors’ backgrounds and what they have achieved. But Hershey’s faced criticism over its decision to feature Fae Johnstone, a transgender woman feminist activist.

Meanwhile, in the US, it brought back its chocolate bar packaging that emphasizes the ’she’ in Hershey’s. The chocolate bar wrappers are also covered with adjectives such as ’fearless,’ ’hardworking’ and ’loving.’

L’Oréal Paris USA

"l'oreal paris: women of worth" title text

In the days leading up to International Women’s Day, L’Oréal Paris USA was accepting nominations for its ’Women of Worth’ program. The program honors 10 women non-profit leaders across the US with a $25,000 grant to help advance their charitable causes and mentorship, as well as a national platform to uplift their organizations.

Now in its 18th year, the brand says the program has supported over 170 women and their philanthropic efforts to date.

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Miller Lite

In ‘Bad $#!t to good $#!t,’ Miller Lite seeks to make it up to the people who invented beer – women – by converting old, sexist beer ads to compost and fertilizer.

For months, Miller Lite has been scouring the internet for its own outdated ads and ads from other beer brands, many of which put women in bikinis. The brand says the collection will be converted to fertilizer to help female hops farmers grow over 1,000 pounds of hops. In turn, the hops will be donated to more than 200 female brewers to make approximately 330,000 beers.

In addition, the brand pledges to donate over five times the amount it spends to “buy back the bad $#!t” to the Pink Boots Society, a non-profit dedicated to helping women in the brewing profession.

M&M’s

m&ms candy pack

Following a controversial Super Bowl campaign that hinted at the termination of M&M’s spokescandies, M&M’s has released limited-edition candy packs featuring female spokescandies Purple, Brown and Green in celebration of women who “flip the status quo,” as the packaging reads.

The brand says $500,000 of limited-edition pack sales will be donated to organizations uplifting women, while another $300,000 from regular pack sales goes to Female Founder Collective and Geena Davis Institute On Gender In Media.

Six female creators – including hip-hop artist Aint Afraid, streetwear designer Ashlee Muhammad, designer Barbiana Liu, queer graffiti artist Ledania and cake sculptor Liz Marek – were also enlisted to create original content inspired by each of the mascots.

Spotify

As part of Spotify’s Equal program to spotlight diverse talent, the streaming platform has partnered with The Blessed Madonna who has co-created a handful of tracks that are included in Spotify’s Equal playlist this month, with female artists including The XX’s Romy Madley Croft, Eliza Rose and rising artists Nia Archives and Laurie Anderson.

This partnership comes as part of a wider global campaign to champion female creators, which has seen Spotify launch an out-of-home activation for the playlist live in London, Dublin and Glasgow.

This article includes reporting from Audrey Kemp, Ellen Ormesher and Jennifer Faull.

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