Creative campaigns that celebrate women

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Whether featuring glossy hair, a slim physique or a perfect smile, women in the media are frequently portrayed in a very idealised fashion, often doing little to challenge gender stereotypes.

However, women in our society continue to face issues such as gender bias or skewed expectations placed upon them. For example, research by the Directory of Social Change suggests that in 2017 the ratio between men and women on corporate boards was made up of only 22% women. 16% of companies still do not include any women at all in the boardroom. (Source)

Is the focus in our media therefore too much on what a woman should look like and less about women in their everyday lives? Do the majority of women recognise themselves in the airbrushed campaigns they see before them?

To celebrate International Women’s Day, we take a look a six of our favourite campaigns that work to celebrate and empower women, focusing less on what a woman looks like, but more about who she is and who she aspires to be. This is a blog listing six of our favourite ad campaigns that champion women.

Good Night Stories For Rebel Girls

To meet the gap they spotted in the market for inspiring picture books, fairy tales, novels and biographies about unconventional girls and women, Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo, co-founders of the children’s media company Timbuktu Labs, decided to create their own.

The book, Good Night Stories For Rebel Girls, tells the stories of 100 great women, from Hatshepsut, the first female pharaoh, to Elizabeth I and Serena Williams, illustrated by female artists from around the world.

After receiving initial interest for the project from their existing newsletter subscribers of 4,000 people, Favilli and Cavallo wrote several of the stories themselves and commissioned a half-dozen illustrations. They then launched a Kickstarter campaign with the goal of making $40,000 to print their first 1,000 copies.

The reaction that followed made it one of Kickstarter’s most successful campaigns with more than $600,000 (£409,000) raised.  

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Sanctuary #LetGo

80% of British women don’t feel good enough and the same percentage of women say they put too much pressure on themselves to be perfect.

The campaign features opinions from five women of retirement age who reminisce about their youth and the things they would prioritise now if they were given the chance. Ultimately, they all expressed the desire to do and worry less, whilst spending more time doing the things that brought them joy, with the people they love.

Sanctuary’s #LetGo campaign has been talked about over 45 million times across social media.

Always Keep Going #LikeAGirl

For more than three decades, Always have empowered girls worldwide by educating millions about puberty and their cycle.  

A 2017 study among 1,000 UK women aged 16-24 years found that at puberty, nearly half of girls (49%) feel paralysed by the fear of failure. This leads to girls avoiding trying new things because they’re too afraid to fail. 

With the Keep Going #LikeAGirl campaign, Always want to show girls and young women that failing is a good thing as it helps us to learn, grow and ultimately build confidence.

The Keep Going #LikeAGirl campaign is one in a series by Always that share the same hashtag. For years, the phrase “like a girl” has been used in a derogatory manner against women to denigrate their abilities. In a series of videos, print based media and conversations on social media using the hashtag #LikeAGirl, Always are taking back the power for this phrase by showcasing what girls and young women can achieve – like a girl.

Sport England This Girl Can

This Girl Can is a nationwide campaign to get women and girls moving, regardless of shape, size and ability. Research has shown that there is a significant gender gap in sport, with two million more men than women exercising or playing sport regularly. The same research also indicated that 75% of women would like to do more. Of the barriers stopping women from exercise, one of the strongest themes was a fear of judgement. (Source:

Funded by The National Lottery and developed by Sport England, This Girl Can features real women who sweat and jiggle as they exercise. It seeks to tell the real story of women who play sport by using images that are the complete opposite of the idealised and stylised images of women we are now used to seeing.

13 million people have now viewed the flagship This Girl Can film online.

UN Women The AutocompleteTruth

The concept behind this campaign was frightfully simple. Typing the words “women should” or “women shouldn’t” raised distressing results generated by Google’s autocomplete function, such as “women shouldn’t vote” and “women should be slaves.”

The phrases were captured and four images were created and distributed in print, on billboards and on social media. A short video called “The Autocomplete Truth” was also recorded and shared online. All were accompanied by the hashtag #womenshould to encourage online discussion.

The Autocomplete Truth campaign results exceeded every expectation. It was circulated across the globe, making headlines on news outlets such as the BBC, CNN, Time and The Guardian. The #womenshould hashtag was tweeted in over 50 countries and, as of 2016, had generated over 134 million impressions on Twitter. At least 755 million people viewed the campaign globally.* Source:  

This digital ad campaign stands out because it raises awareness of a social cause and is not simply a marketing ploy. It successfully sparked discussion about gender inequality across social media, an issue that many didn’t appreciate was so pressing in today’s society.

State Street Global Advisors’ The Fearless Girl

Although not a print or online ad campaign, we still love the impact of this simple, yet bold, statue in New York.

Asset management firm State Street Global Advisors commissioned “The Fearless Girl,” a defiant, bronze statue of a young female, to face down Wall Street’s “Charging Bull” sculpture in the financial district of New York.

The Charging Bull has been in place since 1989. Now this highly masculine statue has met his match in the defiant young girl who stands before him with her hands on her hips.  

Conceived by McCann New York, the idea behind The Fearless Girl is to mark State Street’s initiative urging the 3,500-plus companies in which it invests for its clients to increase the number of women on their corporate boards.

Although the diminutive statue only has a temporary display permit from the NYC Department of Transportation, feedback has been so strong that it seems likely that she will be there to stay.

Think pink: how the colour is being reclaimed


We are currently working with Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums on a project celebrating 100 years of the vote. For this project we are exploring colour theory, based around the gender stereotyping of pink and blue. As the Guardian explains: In recent years pink has become a dirty word associated with gendered toys and stereotypical ‘girliness’. But now writers and artists are fighting to redefine the colour as subversive and grown up.

Is it time to reclaim pink? Watch this space as we unveil our research and opinion.

Sail Creative’s commitment to equality

Sail Creative have always been motivated by social change and equality. We recently set out our principles for sustainable practice that highlight all that we will do to work in an ethical and environmentally friendly way.

As a brand agency, we are conscious that the messages that we put out into the world should never be treated lightly. We work closely with our clients to ensure their brand, message and marketing materials are designed to be inclusive and challenge the status quo where ever possible.  

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What’s your favourite ad campaign that empowers women?

If you have a favourite that we’ve not included in our list, we’d love to hear from you. Which advertising campaign have you seen recently that you felt carried a powerful message for women in our society and across the globe?

Get in touch via email or by leaving a comment.

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