The Time’s Up Trailblazers

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It’s high time for Time’s up. Especially given this week’s announcement of the advertising equivalent for the #metoo movement coinciding with international women’s day.

It’s a story that doesn’t surprise half of the population, but still shocks most. From offhand comments, to stories of individuals being taken advantage of being exposed. And, critically, a culture that encourages this. If you had to point to one industry as cause/ top contributor, I wonder which you’d choose.

Advertising has had a bad wrap for more than one reason. Arguably one of the main contributors of overconsumption, unhappiness, even climate change, yet it’s as if the one we’re missing is the one staring us straight bang in the face. From the unrealistic ideals splashed all over social media and the pages of magazines, constantly peddling products that undermine people’s confidence – disproportionately, of women; to toys and clothing that categorise kids’ capabilities from birth.

But people are waking up, now corralled by couple of trailblazing creatives. Their aim,  acknowledging the lack of diversity within the group itself:


We look at the lack of diversity in this group of women and see the long-term effect of power structures that encouraged some of us to rise but held others back. We see you. We see your talent. We see the gap. We want share of voice and share of power, for everyone.

It’s been a long time coming, with successful campaigns challenging the norms mounting in recent months. With an ever-increasing power to call out companies on their wrongdoings, individuals are standing up – from Rihanna, seeing Snapchat lose $1 billion with their apparent promotion of domestic violence to the outing of sexist colours and statements on kids’ clothing (“forever daddy’s girl” vs. “future scientist”) turned viral campaigns. Not to mention the two creatives who conjured up their own H&M ad to challenge that.

We’ve seen suspicious skin ads but, equally, we’ve seen women like Wisconsin candidate Kelda Roys stand against the chemical concoctions we put on our bodies (below), her NRA funded competition, and act as if breastfeeding was, well, natural. And games like Arranged! educating people on Indian marriage traditions and the need for agency. All female led, but embracing change on both sides of the gender coin.

In Nashra’s words, “the first step to any problem is acknowledging it even exists”. We all need to open our eyes, and work to build an environment where women have a say, in ad agencies and beyond. Not to alienate – the controversial vigilante groups come to mind – but to question a culture and system which does not serve us anymore, and the small actions, however subtle, that make that up. Not just  to empower, but hire, pay, and promote women.

Time’s up. Fake-woke brand statements just trying to get you to buy more stuff, we need no more. Pink beer bottles that seem to miss the boat, limited edition WcDonald’s (maybe start with the cows you abuse daily), or debatable behaviour off screen or on (as John Oliver exposes).

We need bold organisations, individuals, and brands to take a stand replacing the pervasive sexism that puts people (including women) into boxes. Ideas that instead of feeding on insecurities, embrace all aesthetics, build people up to be their best selves. Doing work that matters.





Isabel Irwin

Ex-Press and Project Manager at Goodvertising Agency