How Advertising can bring changes in the world and create new social norms?

Written by: Sandra Vujović, Creative Lead, McCann Podgorica


We are all familiar with the concept of heroes and superheroes. These are the undisputed, brave fighters for justice, truth and change; they are visionaries, drivers and models. For starters, let’s do a little test. Write the first five names of heroes or superheroes that came to your mind.


Now please look at how many women names are among those you wrote on the paper. One? Not even that?


You’re probably thinking now about all the women heroes from comics, or the small and large screens, like Wonder Woman, Cat Woman, Jessica Jones, Supergirl or Electra Nachios? Or the unique ‘mother of dragons’ Daenerys Targaryen? Or the famous Marvel hero from the Second World War, the crafty Agent Pegi Karter? Or the names of great women from the history of civilization, say, from Joan of Arc, through Marie Curie, Frida Kahlo, Clara Zetkin, Coco Chanel, Indira Gandhi, to Gloria Steinem or Tarana Burke. There are so many of them, right? All of them are the indomitable, brave fighters for justice, truth and change. Visionaries, drivers, and role-models. And how come we don’t remember them? The answer is simple: because of stereotypes.


Breaking stereotypes, respecting and accepting diversity, gender equality, encouraging women to take on bigger and more important roles in society and presenting the concept of “Shero“, these were the main themes of the eighth annual breakfast that was hosted on Wednesday, June 20, by The Interpublic Group (IPG). These are also some of the main topics of this year’s Cannes Lions Festival.


The program called Woman at Work brought together several important heroines of today who, through their work and activities, succeeded in defeating cultural, racial and sex stereotypes and setting new standards. Addressing the audience of hundreds of women were the American Olympic champion in fencing, Ibtihaj Muhammad, then Jessica Bennett, Gender Editor at The New York Times, legendary author, activist and feminist Gloria Stein and founder of the #MeToo movement, Tarana Burke. They shared their experiences and attitudes on the role of advertising in the transformation of the world through the destruction of stereotypes.


Why is it necessary to break stereotypes? “Because we can’t become what we can’t see,” as Jessica Bennet defined it.


Instead of supporting and exploiting male-female stereotypes, advertising must begin to reject and break them. Its role in breaking stereotypes is crucial. It shows what we can achieve, what we need to be and what we need to strive for. Advertising shapes the world more than anything else. More than any ideology, religion, or politics. It is the one that brings change and creates a picture of the world. It can also show us how the world we want to belong to looks like. For this reason, we, the advertising people, we need to change the ways in which we depict the roles of both genders in the society, as well as the ways in which we treat them and depict their habits and needs.


These changes can also be a great opportunity for brands, not in terms of adapting to changes, but in terms of active participation in them. Viewed from that angle, brands can become heroes, or bearers of change – visionaries, drivers, role-models.


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