See How Brands and Agencies Are Celebrating International Women's Day

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Every year, International Women's Day (March 8) provides an opportunity for ad agencies around the world to devote their creative energies to work highlighting female empowerment. Until recently, many of the campaigns around this century-old event were homegrown projects from agencies or pro bono work for charity or NGO clients.

But this year sees a slew of projects from big-name brands eager to demonstrate their commitment to gender equality. Some, including Nike and Benetton, are also going global with campaigns originating from countries including India, Russia, Turkey and the Middle East.

Nike Women has launched three films, in the Middle East, Russia and Turkey, that challenge gender stereotypes in a style tailored to that particular region. The films are part of campaigns that launched locally last month which Nike believes will resonate globally. They were created simultaneously by W&K Amsterdam with the same objective -- to encourage and inspire women to get more active despite the barriers to doing so.

The Russian ad (seen above) begins with a little girl getting up on stage in a pretty dress to sing a traditional well-known Russian song about what girls are "made of." However, in this film, there's a twist, as some of Russia's well-known female athletes appear and inspire the girl to start singing about girls being made of "iron" and "punches and bruises."

The Middle East region ad centers around the question "What will they say about you?" and shows women out exercising, some in traditional Arab dress, defying stares of disapproval.

The Turkish film is set to Beyonce's "Run the World (Girls)" and also challenges gender stereotypes. It sees women breaking out of traditional poses to become athletes, and contrasts stereotypes such as "our hands are delicate and fragile" with footage, for example, of a female athlete lifting weights.

From India, Benetton's #UnitedByHalf campaign takes aim at men. India is Benetton's biggest market outside Italy, and the brand is particularly popular among men. The film seeks to persuade them to recognize women as equal partners. Like the Nike ads, it's a local campaign that Benetton is releasing globally.

The spot, by Creativeland Asia, features a montage of different women depicted in powerful positions: a group of older ladies bowling in saris, a girl arm wrestling a boy, a woman taking the initiative in bed, a pregnant professional working at her laptop while her husband minds their child, and women helping their partners move furniture or change a tire.

This year International Women's Day also sees several high-profile campaigns from the corporate world, keen to highlight its diversity credentials. Asset management firm State Street Global Advisors commissioned "The Fearless Girl," a defiant, bronze statue of a girl, to face down Wall Street's "Charging Bull" sculpture in the financial district. Conceived by McCann New York, it marks 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.

State Street Global Advisors' fearless girl
State Street Global Advisors' fearless girl Credit: State Street Global Advisors

Meanwhile, in Europe, UBS launched a global spot in which it poses some of the most common big questions for women setting up in business. The ad, out of Publicis, is set to music by British singer Joss Stone and includes questions like "Did I only get the job because I'm a woman?" and "Will the investors take me seriously?"

Other women's day efforts include a new spot from Microsoft 's "Make What's Next" campaign, which asks girls what they want to change in the world and lets them interact with Microsoft products, like an interactive VR headset. In the U.K., charity Inspiring Girls and agency MullenLowe's "Redraw the Balance" campaign calls on the animation world to provide more strong female role models, creating some new ones of its own. And a film by fashion brand Tory Burch and agency Laird & Partners aims to address the double standard that exists around ambition. It features appearances from Gwyneth Paltrow, Julianne Moore, Sheryl Sandberg and Melinda Gates.

For its part, Mitsubishi sets out to break the stereotype that the vast majority of car enthusiasts are male by saluting female drivers who are finding their own lane.

The carmaker confirmed this bias by posting a modded Mitsubishi Outlander Sport on its social feeds about a week ago. From the comments, it was clear that people thought the car belonged to a male enthusiast. Today the auto brand surprised its social audience with a video revealing that the owner is a woman, proving no matter your gender, passion will always be passion.

Burger King adds to the celebration in a search for its Burger Queen. In China, the fast food chain and Y&R Shanghai ask the question "Can you be our Burger Queen?" for a campaign around International Women's Day. The question was posed in video interviews, which led to an in-store experience, where burgers came in boxes with a question printed on top: "Do you want to know who our Burger Queen is?" When women popped open the box, they found a mirror inside, complete with a little yellow crown. The message: "Every one of you is our Burger Queen." Awww.

Also, Stacy's Pita Chips, founded in 1997 by female entrepreneur Stacy Madison, is marking the occasion by unveiling limited-edition bags. Created for Women's History Month, the designs feature artwork from over the years to honor the courageous women that have helped shape our nation's history.

Stacy's Pita Chips celebrates Women's History Month and International Women's Day with its packaging.
Stacy's Pita Chips celebrates Women's History Month and International Women's Day with its packaging. Credit: Stacy's Pita Chips

Inspired by the artwork and signs from pivotal moments throughout history, the bags will be available for a limited time to consumers who register at starting March 8, 2017.

For each consumer registration while supplies last, the brand will donate $10 to Step Up to support the mentoring of young women.

Sharing its support, Jack Daniel's toasts to women across the globe with a clever tweet.

Notable digital campaigns include the "Girls Count" project from Droga5, for the charity, which highlights the gap in female education around the world by aiming to create the "longest ever user-generated film;" an app that can detect "Manterruption," developed by BETC in Sao Paulo; and in 360i's, "Equal Voices" campaign, the agency has created placards for women unable to take part in marches on March 8.

Agencies are also making their own internal changes to mark the day. DDB is adding the name of the agency's first female copy chief, Phyllis Robinson, to its door globally.

DDB celebrates International Women's Day 2017.
DDB celebrates International Women's Day 2017. Credit: DDB

It will temporarily become DDB&R, with the change affecting DDB Worldwide's physical signage, email signatures, meeting rooms and the agency's website. This will be supported by a social campaign in which it celebrates Robinson by altering the copy on some of the agency's most famous ads to reveal that they were written by women.

And, in China, Anomaly's Shanghai office adapted the quote, displayed in all its offices, from George Bernard Shaw: "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man." It altered a plaque bearing that quote by spraypainting "woman" in place of "man."

Contributing: Angela Doland

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