Thought Leadership

‘Don’t assume you know what women think.’

The Gerety Awards Jury lift the lid on the award-winning work and consider how to create an environment where genre-defining work can thrive

Georgie Moreton

Assistant Editor, BITE

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In a world where the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report revealed that at the current rate of progress we will have to wait 132 years until we reach true gender parity, The Gerety Awards is one of the organisations working to halo the power of the female lens.

The Gerety Awards are unique because they judge all advertising, not just advertising made for women, through the female lens. It's a lens that is desperately needed and one increasingly that needs to be championed and fought for.

To lift a lid on some of the change-making work and consider how to create an environment where such genre-defining work can thrive, Creativebrief’s Editorial Director Nicola Kemp engaged in a lively discussion with some of the members of the Gerety Award Grand Jury; Tanja Grubner, Global Innovation, Marketing & Communications Director Feminine at Essity, Imali Hettiarachchi, Global Brand Strategy at Lego Group, Dagmara Witek-Kuśmider, Chief Creative Officer at Publicis Worldwide Poland and Vice President of Foundation K.I.D.S. Children Hospitals’ Innovators Club and Mikki Brunner, Worldwide ECD at Publicis Conseil, France.

Shifting the lens

The Gerety Awards play an important role in championing the female lens; Where half the world’s population is made up of women, shifting the lens is not only important for inclusion it is business imperative. 

Go all the way, be a bit radical. It might ruffle feathers but will make a difference.

Imali Hettiarachchi, Global Brand Strategy at LEGO Group

“First recognise that looking through a female lens is not just important, it's lucrative,” says Hettiarachchi, pointing to the fact that Reece Witherspoon recently sold her media brand anchored in storytelling, creating and discovering content that celebrates women for $900 million. Creating work that resonates with women is good business sense and to do so, women need to be included in every step of the process. She adds; “More women behind the lens, more risk is needed. Go all the way, be a bit radical. It might ruffle feathers but will make a difference.”

The Wombstories campaign from Essity is an example of how work that maximises on this female lens is able not only to drive sales but drive meaningful societal change. By speaking to real women, the brand was able to come up with a new pain dictionary that can be used to help diagnose endometriosis. 

Grubner explains that “women's experiences when it comes to periods are often silenced, and this has a damaging effect on girls, despite the fact that 1 in 10 women are suffering.” Knowing the audience and being unafraid to face taboos head-on was the only way to make the campaign impactful. She shares that “brands have an obligation to shine a light and open the dialogue, expose the female lens - work that does this resonates with men and women. We need to move from silence to solidarity.”

Work that makes a difference

When reflecting on the vast range of work the jury saw in the judging process, Brunner shared her enthusiasm for Ford’s Very Gay Raptor campaign which saw the brand flip negative homophobic comments on their head to celebrate the LGBT community with a special version of the Raptor car. “To see a macho legacy brand put money where its mouth is and engage socially, make a product shows the brand is hyper aware of not virtue signalling.” says Brunner, “It can’t be a flash in the pan, it has to have longevity.”

People ignore ads that ignore them - If ads don’t connect they just get ignored.

Tanja Grubner, Global Innovation, Marketing & Communications Director Feminine at Essity

Yet, while purpose marketing has become somewhat of a trend in recent years, getting it right and not coming across as disingenuous is essential for resonating with all audiences, not just women. Hettiarachchi urged brands not to feel they must “say something meaningful in every campaign.” 

She added: “SNL has parodied us. People are taking the mick out of our approach, look at how society views us. We need to keep our feet on the ground.” While purpose when done right sees impactful results, there remain other strong ways to connect with audiences through humour, joy, emotion or narrative. “The question shouldn’t be purpose as a trend but what is good work; People using heart and brain together.”

For Grubner, the best campaigns are the ones that are inclusive, intersectional and well thought out. She says “brands don’t have a choice. To make an impact, culturally, and socially, they have to understand the consumer. People ignore ads that ignore them - If ads don’t connect they just get ignored.”

Who knows what resonates

The judges all agreed that the Gerety Awards judging process was an enriching experience, sharing how meeting up to discuss the work with other women from across the world was eye-opening.

If you’re trying to solve the problem of someone whose shoes you haven’t walked in, you’re never going to solve it

Dagmara Witek-Kuśmider Chief Creative Officer at Publicis Worldwide Poland and Vice President at Foundation K.I.D.S. Children Hospitals’ Innovators Club

Hettiarachchi was struck by the profound array of opinions in the room. “The discussion was really interesting, lots of debate, not all agreement,” she explained, adding: “What we see in culture, the #metoo movement, Roe v Wade, Amber Heard, not all women agree on everything. Don’t assume you know what women think.” 

The wide array of opinions within the judging panel is mirrored within society and as such the only way to truly shift the lens and resonate with women is to be curious, ask questions and empathise. Grubner shared that the “success of Wombstories was down to empathy. Asking questions in a different way like ‘if your uterus was a place where would it be?’ We need to listen harder and allow women to trust experiences.”

Changing the narrative

To change the narrative and widen the lens, the industry needs to attract diverse talent by creating a more inclusive environment where people from all different walks of life with different experiences can thrive. 

“If you’re trying to solve the problem of someone whose shoes you haven’t walked in, you’re never going to solve it,” says Witek-Kuśmider. “We women have to run an extra mile for title, for responsibility, now we have to work forward toward equality. Invite more people to the table of different races, genders, sexuality, age and when you invite them, make them leaders and give them equal pay. We all benefit from diverse teams and more innovative work.”

Don’t expect banal briefs to be breakthroughs. Better briefs mean better work.

Mikki Brunner, Worldwide ECD at Publicis Conseil, France

While the benefits of a more inclusive, diverse workforce are unmatched, there are still some that remain resistant and it is those people who need to be brought into the conversation further. For such people, Brunner shares that “we need to put ROI in the spotlight and show risk-averse brands that there's money and impact. They will be converted.” Yet, she reminded brands that the onus is also on them warning; “Don’t expect banal briefs to be breakthroughs. Better briefs mean better work.”

The jury shared the parting advice that in order to move forward, create great work and be more inclusive, we all must remember to make space to play and have fun. Witek-Kuśmider urged the audience to think about why they joined the industry in the first place: to have fun. Where creativity has the power to move forward the narrative, creating an inclusive space in which it can thrive will see the lens widen and the best work flourish.

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