Procter & Gamble Co. is tying its brands' efforts against gender bias together in a new corporate #WeSeeEqual digital campaign linked to International Women's Day coming March 8.
And to back the effort, the world's biggest advertiser has tapped the small agency that successfully battled to change guidelines at Cannes to discourage juries from honoring ads that objectify women.
Badger & Winters' own #WomenNotObjects campaign played a role in winning the assignment from P&G. But the corporate project started last year well before the agency's effort won a concession from the International Festival of Creativity last month to change judging guidelines.
The agency also has worked as a design shop for P&G since 1998 on several brands, including with Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard years ago when he worked on CoverGirl, which was spun off last year to Coty. But this is its first advertising assignment from the company.
The #WomenNotObjects campaign is part of what led P&G to tap Badger & Winters for the project, Mr. Pritchard said in an interview. "We were pretty impressed," he said. "So we said let's see what she [Chief Creative Officer Madonna Badger] can do. And she and [agency President] Jim Winters did a fantastic job."
The digital campaign, running both paid and through organic social-media sharing on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and elsewhere, could ultimately move to TV and is expected to be a multi-year effort, Mr. Pritchard said.
The initial video shows men, women, boys and girls defying gender stereotypes, using a mix footag that includes snippets from such brands as Always and Secret. The soundtrack from 4 Non Blondes' "What's Up" is interspersed with such text lines as "Hugs don't care who give them," "Butts don't care who kick them," and "Households don't care who head them."
P&G brands including Pantene, SK-II, Ariel, Fairy and more have all done ads on gender equality themes in recent years, but Mr. Pritchard said it's also important to bring them together under the corporate umbrella.
"We realized that because we are a leading company of brands, we can use our voice to express our point of view about gender equality," Mr. Pritchard said. "We believe the world should be free of gender bias. We should have equal representation of men and women. We should have equal voice of men and women. And this should be an opportunity on International Women's Day to put our point of view out there."
It's not just about ads, but also about the work that P&G does elsewhere, said Ms. Badger, pointing to P&G's Children's Safe Drinking Water program, which includes sachets that draw on technology used in Tide to purify so far 11 billion gallons of water, saving women countless hours of grueling treks to carry water from uncontaminated sites.
Fighting gender bias is "something P&G has been doing in a very genuine way for years, but this is wrapping it up into the corporate value system that I think will also inspire other brands in the house," Mr. Winters said. "They've been walking the walk for a long time and aren't inclined to shine a spotlight on themselves. A lot of companies shine the spotlight on themselves but aren't walking the walk."
Mr. Pritchard said P&G now has 45% of managers and a third of its board who are women. "We still think there's more to do, because we think we should have equal representation at every level," he said. "But we think that when consumers know we're a company that does these things that it tends to help the brands too."
He acknowledged that gender equality has become a more politically fraught issue since last year's presidential election, but he doesn't believe that makes it riskier to wrap corporate branding around it.
"I think what might be happening is that there are more conversations about this now than there have been in a long time," Mr. Pritchard said. "I wouldn't say it's more difficult, but it's certainly timely."