Sexist advertising contributes to a culture of violence against Women. ShEqual, Australia’s advertising equality movement run by Women’s Health Victoria was established in 2020 to empower people to take action against this prevalent yet taboo topic.
Icon was invited to pitch to create a video showcasing a new resource designed to educate the industry on stereotypes prevalent through Australian advertising, content and broader communications.
We were selected for our bold approach in turning the brief on its head and shaping a solution that enabled earlier industry engagement through an event experience and authentic capability-building. All of which were amplified by real-world context, examples and voices.
Advertising is powerful; it is a multi-billion-dollar industry designed to sell products and services. An industry built on selling stories about who we are as individuals, who we are in society and our role in the world.
For centuries these stories have been designed to either challenge or frame the status quo to influence our purchasing decisions. But the stories we are being told in advertising don’t reflect the reality we live in. They’re full of the same mix of character ingredients. When women are depicted, they are usually young, white, and able-bodied.
In December 2021, shEqual surveyed almost 600 women and men from the advertising and communications industry. The research found that most respondents feel that realistic portrayals of women in ads are extremely important and they’re concerned about potentially sexist content yet aren’t speaking up.
To help drive much-needed conversations around dangerous stereotypes, shEqual briefed Icon to develop a shareable video to inspire and educate people within the industry to take action.
The production budget was tight though Icon felt that the video needed real-world context and diverse, credible voices to get the attention of the industry from c-suite to interns.
The idea was to create a safe yet brave space for diverse industry talent to come together and normalise conversation about this sensitive and complex issue. This approach would provide a unique opportunity to accelerate the pace of change between awareness and capability building, closing the gap between intention and action.
Icon’s proposed treatment idea centred around creating an event experience for our industry through the way we filmed and produced the educational video content itself.
SH!FT by ShEqual
Icon developed a new platform, SH!FT to ‘house’ the experience and create the content. The intimate panel event held at The Content Garden in June 2022 aimed to move the conversation from one that has previously focused on questioning the existence and harms of stereotypes to a richer, more constructive conversation that focused on what actions the industry can take to correct them.
Diversity of voices was key. We wanted to platform people who represented different parts of the ‘brief to screen’ process — from shaping the brief to shaping the characters, media planning and evaluations.
It was also important this event didn’t carry any authoritarian or judgemental tones. Women’s Health Victoria is an NFP, primarily funded by the state government but we needed to curate a collective voice to inspire a collective and considered change trajectory for an issue that’s layered with complexity and multiplicity.
What better way than to anchor the event with a passionate Australian comedian and television presenter, Alex Lee, who has previously reported on gender stereotypes? Alex brought a healthy balance of humour and well-informed straight-shooting as she challenged the industry to get with the times.
The panel featuring Dhivia Pillai (senior strategist, TBWA), Sarah Vincenzini (associate creative director, M&C Saatchi), Niall Hughes (group account director, Icon Agency), Anathea Ruys (CEO, UM Australia), Irene Joshy (head of creative, insights, Kantar Asia & Australia) and Fiona Le Brocq (senior executive, brand, marketing & CX, Medibank) served as deep well of provocative insights and opinions on how to start truly shifting the dial.
The event earned coverage through six major industry news outlets, was shared through the wide networks of our panellists, and the content captured has been used to create a video content series designed to inspire, provoke and educate.
The content series, which has just been launched to the industry and earned coverage through nine major industry news outlets has been shaped around:
Seven short-form, bite-size, snackable social media edits designed to prompt broader awareness and conversation around the seven stereotypes whilst giving the audience tangible takeaways and driving them to the ShEqual website to learn more or explore training options
One hero video that can be used across all owned channels including social, web and future engagement events, designed to sensitise the bigger issue of stereotyping and what value we might be missing out on from still being hindered by them
Longer-form edits, housed on the ShEqual website, designed to educate the audience by delving deep into complex considerations and practical alternatives to each stereotype
28 industry leaders attended SH!FT Females Stereotypes Panel event
2,335 video views across Instagram, Vimeo and LinkedIn
377 visits to the SH!FT stereotypes landing page
151 downloads of SH!FT Females Stereotypes resource
100 hard copies of SH!FT Females Stereotypes resource distributed to industry professionals
Each video view, each landing page visit and each download is helping to raise awareness of negative female stereotypes in advertising, and arm people with the resources to discuss and challenge them more effectively.
By using a panel and studio audience for the video series, we were also able to make this issue top of mind for influential industry figures, and create and solidify industry connections, such as connecting with Irene Joshy from Kantar Insights who later completed the Business Case research piece, which looks at the progressive portrayals of gender in Australia.
Event ideation and management