International Women’s Day: F*ck off brands

A blog from The Drum's editor, Stephen Lepitak, covering reaction to events in media, social media, marketing, advertising and communications in general.

International Woman’s Day: F*ck off brands

It is always a danger entering into the equality debate as a white male, but it’s one I continue to feel strongly about.

While some of my colleagues are perplexed by the need to still have International Women’s Day, I think it better to have an event that talks about how far we’ve come and where need to get to rather than ignore the fact that there are parts of the gender quality debate that still need to be addressed. However, once again we are in danger of seeing an important discussion hijacked and belittled by brand marketers jumping on board and annoying their target market.

While The Drum has been a platform for others to address the gender disparity issue for years, the gap between men and women in certain respects remains. But as much as this disappoints me, it would be wrong to discount those who are making a huge difference and I do believe that parity will eventually come. The sooner the better, and that’s the undeniable truth of things.

International Women’s Day is important because it furthers the conversation around gender parity.

It might seem to many as a chance to spread gifs or bash men (although there are many that need bashing) – but I’m down with it if only if it highlights the continuous issue that half the planet deserves more.

But it’s a step too far in my opinion to commercialise the day when those brands don't further the cause at all. Make up brands, diet brands and food brands – this is not Valentine’s Day all over again. There is a political message that shouldn't be diluted by your need to hit numbers.

Instead of sending newsletters and social media messages, why not organise an event or attempt to inspire, rather than sell your wares? Take it more seriously, and perhaps the message won’t get lost. Making this another day to market to consumers doesn’t sit right with me at all. And I wonder how the women marketers really feel about the day being appropriated for those means too.

However, I do offer a caveat. Where marketing creativity is used to offer a strong message then by all means get involved. This morning, for instance, we covered an app created by BETC that determines when women are cut short in a conversation by men. Meanwhile, a pair of women creatives from 360i have created an initiative called ‘#EqualVoices’ to show solitary with those who can’t afford to or are unable to participate in the ‘A Day Without a Woman' strike. This is exactly how the marketing sector should get involved in such a movement and I applaud both businesses for such ingenuity.

We also spoke to Benetton, a brand with real history in driving social change, on its campaign to promote International Woman’s Day this week. That matters because we know it has a potential to cut through – and while it may sell clothing at the same time, I appreciate that it is coming at the subject with experience and belief in the message. It’s not enough just to jump on board suddenly – consumers are far smarter than some brands.

We champion marketing every day on The Drum, but I believe this is one day too far for advertisers to hijack.

So if you kindly, please back off and leave it the hell alone. Easter is but days away after all.

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