Prasad Sangameshwaran
Jun 28, 2019

Madonna Badger: 'Ads that objectify women harm the brand’s reputation'

Advertising's leading lady, Madonna Badger, CCO, Badger & Winters, who created unprecedented media and social engagement with her #WomenNotObjects campaign is championing a new cause. Campaign India gives you a ringside view of her latest purpose and engages in a conversation on key takeaways from the #MeToo movement.

Madonna Badger: 'Ads that objectify women harm the brand’s reputation'
Madonna Badger, Badger and Winters, the lady who inspired the advertising world against objectification set a new purpose to the audience on the stage of Cannes Lions 2019. The lady who lost he children to a deadly fire in her house some years back, spoke about a cause that she said was "Worse than my children dying...."
"It's children being snatched away from parents and being put in cages. It's a fate worse than death," she said pointing out to the US-Mexico border where the children of illegal immigrants were being separated from their parents. 
To draw attention to the problem, her ageny in association with an NGO Raicas put up 25 cages in the heart of New York City. These cages had a life-like dummy of a girl child wrapped in a foil. "This was done for people to confront horrible desperation at the borders," she said.
In a span of three hours, the cages went viral. "Sharing is an act of protest," says Badger. She says that there were nearly 120 million people who were confronted with the reality through this campaign.
She says that the international borders between nations is only one boundary that shackles all of us. "There are borders all around us, of the colour of skin, nationality, sexuality, gender, names, addresses. The value system is badly broken," she says.
Badger adds that true diversity is based on our experience and how we think. "We all must rise up and do something. If the borders are broken, we all benefit."
She appeals to young executives to become a driving force and change things by opening the mindset of companies. "The tricky part is that the young people of the industry say no more. Speak against the injustice created by borders," she says and adds, "Lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
She appealed to the communications and marketing fraternity to "use privilege to shape culture and repair a very broken value system. Create worth where there is little. The connective tissue is love. It is more powerful than any cage and it changes this world".
"It takes one person to create a waterfall change. What border will you break. How will you rise?," she said as she ended her talk.
Earlier Badger had caught up with Campaign India to speak about the business impact of objectification of women in advertising. Excerpts from the conversation:
In the times of #MeToo we are increasingly hearing about women in positions of power not standing up for vulnerable colleagues. Your comments.
We are in a difficult time where all these changes are happening. I was once asked this question on a TV show. The host told me this story about a female creative director who was in charge of a giant airline pitch. There were 200 people behind the pitch working on it day and night. 
The lady starts off the pitch saying I want to imagine you sitting in a chair, and the CEO of the giant US airline asks, “Well, is she naked?” The creative director retorts, “She is whatever you want her to be.” In that moment, when you are the creative director representing the livelihood of 200 people, the result of the pitch can make or break an agency.
So what can you say? You cannot lash out at the CEO. The question to me in the talk show was, did she do the right thing?
Yes, she has to worry about kids at home. She is a single mom. In that moment, what the CEO said was wrong. But you have to handle it in a way that it does not handle the livelihood of not only your children, but 200 other families, maybe in a way that, gets interesting later on. We cant win at every turn. I wish the world was like that. That’s not the way to be a person that wants equality in this world.
Is there a business case to be demonstrated on how it benefits business to be gender balanced and stay away from stereotypes?
We have a study that actually measured objectifying ads against non objectifying ads. It’s sometimes the same brand or the same category. But across every KPI and every single metric in the study, ads that indulged in objectification harmed the brand’s reputation, purchase intent across every category and every way we could measure it across HHI or Hispanic families and so on. 
That data does exist. Other companies have done other studies. We know that women control the world’s largest economy (21 trillion dollars) which is bigger than China and India combined. Getting this right with women is extremely important. What Olay experienced was a huge growth and penetration in millennial households. We know it makes a difference. one of the problems is that we get so carried away with this idea of gender equality that we forget that it’s just about equality. It’s about every kind of colour, every type of ability, non-ability. As of now there are 52 different ways to describe what kind of gender you are. Would you treat a man that way or your mother that way? Why should you have a woman in a bikini next to a Lexus? That’s really the long and short of it.
The #MeToo movement gathered a lot of steam last year in India. But some of these have been misused to settle personal scores. Doesn’t this take away from the legitimacy of the movement? It probably lets other real culprits get away too saying they are being framed…. 
The contrast is difficult. The movement just began. We just started believing women. If you have been wrongly framed get over it. Thank god, you did not do anything wrong. Help another woman who is being harrassed. People like Harvey Weinstein deserve to go to jail. Many men deserve to go to jail. They also think that the idea of coming forward is difficult. Saying the truth is difficult, being believed is difficult. 
The next phase of that is that not having the same death row for even a guy who kisses you on the cheek. The punishment is exactly the same, no matter what thecrime is. Somehow we need to sort that out. This is just begun. 


Campaign India

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