Last April I had the chance to volunteer at an event called AdHer. Local Chicago high school students were invited to participate in a day of hacking together a new ad. All the students were girls of color. They were asked to select an ad they have seen that was meant to target them but seriously missed the mark.
They selected this ad:
The missed message was obvious. These women had a lack of curves and were using the self esteem movement to sell jeans that didn’t look like they could fit any curves. It also featured women who looked like they were competing with each other. They didn’t seem inviting or friendly at all. It just evoked flash backs of high school mean girls.
We started the day by brainstorming how we can change the ad. Could we change their facial expressions? Could we ad a third model? What if we reclaimed the words “Love your curves” and invite the audience to “Own your curves.”
After our brainstorm we headed to a photography studio and took about 30 minutes shooting different concepts. There was one where the girls would spray painting the words “Own your curves.” There was another where they were all lovey-dovey in the spirit of a Dove commercial. Then we got a great shot that showed love, acceptance, and ownership.
We uploaded the selects to the computer and had about 2 hours to edit out the green screen, drop in a brick wall, add our messaging to the wall, and send it to print.
We headed to the closing reception where judges from the advertising industry came to hear our pitches and choose a winning team.
After a nearly 45 minute deliberation, our team won!! I could not have been prouder of these girls that I had just met almost 10 hours earlier. They gave me hope for not only our country’s future but the future of advertising.
This event got me thinking. What ad would I redo? Is there an ad that’s suppose to speak to me but failed to do just that?
It’s that DSW campaign. The campaign is called “March On.” But out of all the ads I’ve seen, they all have a sexist tone. Take this one for example:
Ok. So that might be a funny story to tell to the ladies over brunch but it by no means warrants a #MarchOn. I get it. It’s about embracing the embarrassing moments and being yourself. But in our current political climate it’s trivial. Who cares about you hitting on your dentist when we face way more humiliating things like unequal pay, no maternity leave, and constantly trying to prove that we should have a seat at the table?
So I thought. Ok. How could I change this to be more appealing to me and my peers? What are the obstacles and #FML moments we have?
There’s that one time I went to close on a condo. All by myself. And forgot my ID to sign the papers. #FML
There was that other time when I spent 9 months training for a marathon and tore my meniscus at mile 18. And finished it anyway. #FML
Oh and then there was that other time when the creative director at my new job used work from my portfolio in a pitch to a new client. Work done at another company. With other collaborators. And when our agency wasn’t granted their business, I was let go.
F. M. L.
So DSW. Before you jump on the bandwagon of activist advertising, maybe ask the women you work with what it’s actually like to work in advertising. Or any male dominated career. Chances are they have real #FML stories. Stories that will really make you cry "March On."