Festival Intelligence: Smashing stereotypes to empower women | M&M Global

Festival Intelligence: Smashing stereotypes to empower women

As the modern woman becomes more empowered, more adventurous and more ambitious than any female generation before, it’s never been more important for brands to recognise their wants and needs, their challenges and behaviours, and step out of the traditional and outdated mould to really engage them on a personal level in the 21st century.

Global spending by women has been estimated around $18 trillion and further to that, it is women who drive 70-80% of all consumer purchases. So why has it taken until now for the gender stereotyping debate to really start gathering momentum across the advertising industry?

According to a study by the #SeeHer initiative, gender equal programming spurs a 10% increase in brand trust and a more than 20% increase in sales. And this is something that the world’s biggest advertiser P&G is already addressing – even behind the scenes. It recently announced that it is working towards a 2023 goal of women directing at least 50% of its product commercials.

The truth is, that we are now in a whole different era and the stereotypes that may once have been accepted in society are no longer relevant.

“Women were always defined by their responsibilities, usually parental, so campaigns were targeting either ‘busy working mum’ or ‘stay-at-home mum’ while men enjoyed a much broader, much more nuanced range of ambitions, goals and desires,” said Rachel Pashley, a senior strategist at ad agency J Walter Thompson, explaining her reasons behind why she recently commissioned the Women’s Index Survey.

It’s encouraging, therefore, to see that, judging by the Festival of Media Global 2018 Awards shortlist, we’re beginning to see positive steps taken by brands in breaking down these barriers. Of the 243 shortlisted campaigns, less than a quarter were solely focused on women but of those, perhaps unsurprisingly, it is the FMCG brands leading the charge (74%). The stats also suggest that other regions could learn a thing or two from APAC, which is where almost two thirds of the campaigns were executed.  

In an earlier Festival Intelligence report, we explored the rise in ‘Brand Purpose’ and that is something that is also evident in our selection of female-focused entries – with brands adopting a range of comms strategies from creating social movements, giving a voice to women and a sense of empowerment.  

From using a real-life cancer patient to drive hair donations in Israel to a transgender woman in India to celebrate mothers everywhere, we’re seeing more and more signs of eliminating gender stereotyping through inspirational storytelling based on insights that address the real needs of women – whatever their age or circumstances.

Fran Cowan, CMO, Inskin Media, and VP of Marketing for IAA UK, said: “There have always been campaigns targeted at women but I think it’s more about the way they are being done now – they are FOR women, they are not presenting women like this unattainable ideal that makes them feel guilty about the person they can never be. Brands are increasingly recognising that women come in all shapes and sizes and appealing to that. And they are not guilting them into this whole idea of ‘what you need to be’ – ie. the perfect first time mother.”

“There is a realism that’s coming through which really resonates. Brands are showing a deeper understanding and are there to support rather than this glamourous unrealistic image which has been presented to us our whole lives. There is definitely a trend in supporting women with a realistic model of reality, not the skinny rose-tinted version of the model from the 50s which is not where we are.”

There’s no doubt that women respond very strongly to powerful storytelling and emotion in advertising. When it comes to targeting women, the power of the insight cannot be underestimated and those brands who understand the needs of women, tackle real-life situations and issues and address them on a one-to-one level, will come out on top.

We put the spotlight on two FOMG Awards 2018 shortlisted entries, which highlight this trend:  

Embrace the Extraordinary with OMO | OMO | PHD | China

Shortlisted for: Best Local Execution of a Global Brand, Best Communications Strategy, Best Engagement Strategy


Women with children aren’t just Mums. They are still an individual female adult. Yet for decades, detergent advertising has focused almost exclusively on communicating to them as mothers, as if their only reason for being was to care for their children.

OMO needed greater emotional relevance to the consumer, apart from product efficacy. Recognising this elephant in the room was the first step to a communications overhaul that would have significant brand impact. The second step was accepting that a Chinese millennial mother – now a core target – does not define herself as a Mother first. This Millennial Woman is a free-thinking individual, who also happens to be a nurturer and carer for her child(ren). Her need for adventure and exploration, by celebrating who she is and can be, creates a drive that keeps her constantly progressing.

The communication strategy ensured that a multi-layer, sequential campaign was delivered, allowing OMO to be ‘always on’ and across multiple channels to expand reach and deliver depth of messaging. Deeper consumer understanding lead to executional themes around self-development, travel, and art, and a mix of push (interruption) and pull (seek out) media and message was essential for creating consumer connection – inspiring women to challenge themselves and embrace a ‘new woman attitude’.

Nayi Soch: New Thinking | Star Plus | Mindshare | India

Shortlisted for: Best Event, Experiential or Sponsorship Campaign (GOLD WINNER)


In India, a child’s identity is defined only by their father’s name. From the time a child is born in a hospital, to when they are admitted to schools, while getting important documents, the person would always have to use their Father’s name. Success and pride are expressed through the link to your father’s. Star Plus wanted to change this practice and bring to consciousness that mothers are equal contributors to a child’s success and play a vital part in the development of the child.

Nayi Soch – New Thinking: a campaign that taps into the thought that women are today opening up endless opportunities and we are living in a new world, changing the way future generations live and eliminating gender stereotypes.

Combining India’s passion for entertainment with Star Plus’ sponsorship and programming, Mindshare had the platform to change culture together. It put mothers at the heart of the campaign. Utilising Star Plus’s sponsorship of the Indian cricket team, it asked them to swap the name on the back of their shirts from their father’s name, to their mother’s name.

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