Watch the stereotype-busting commercials that won Cannes' first-ever award for kickass women

 
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For years, Madison Avenue has worked out of the same playbook: men are beer-swilling, BBQ-tending couch-potatos; women stern, attractive mothers juggling household chores, boys play sports, girls play with dolls, et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseum.



Watch the stereotype-busting commercials that won Cannes' first-ever award for kickass women

That's a massive oversimplification, of course, but the point is that when advertisers need to get a message through to a mass audience, it's easy to fall back on certain instantly recognizable clichés, or play to the aspirations of the perceived everyman or everywoman — if not their insecurities.

But this week in southern France, amidst the endless schmoozing and champagne-fueled yacht parties of one of the industry's biggest happenings of the year, it's clear that the tides have begun to turn against these time-worn tactics.

For one thing, some of the most buzzed-about commercials of the year at the Cannes Lions international ads festival purposefully set out to throw a wrench in them.

Proctor & Gamble Always's highly-acclaimed #LikeAGirl campaign, which turned a commonplace gendered insult on its head, has already racked up a slew of awards. Underarmour's "I Will What I Want" video of Giselle slugging and kicking away at a punching bag as Twitter insults illuminate the walls around her is also considered a likely judge favorite.

"I feel like almost every conversation I'm in here, 'Like a Girl' comes up," Deutsch LA president Kim Getty told Mashable.

This year also marked the debut of a new award category: the Glass Lion, which celebrates campaigns that take on gender inequality or prejudice. The progressive-minded accolade was added at the urging of Facebook COO and Leanin.org founder Sheryl Sandberg, a champion of workplace gender diversity.

"We know that the messages that our industry puts out have a tremendous impact on culture and...influence human behavior and the way people see each other and themselves," said Senta Slingerland, Cannes Lions Festival's director of brand strategy. "So celebrating work that is trying to represent gender in a more realistic and progressive way can also have a real impact on culture."

Sandberg first floated the idea after speaking at the festival's "See It Be It" event, a program that provides resources and training for promising female creatives.

That event took aim at a related gender disparity issue within the industry, which is that for decades, real-life Mad Men have been exactly that — men.

The industry has obviously evolved leagues past the casual chauvinism on display in AMC's 1960s period piece. But its legacy isn't entirely gone, and in the creative departments and upper echelons of Madison Avenue, women remain scarce. Just 11% of all winners of industry-wide creative awards last year were women — up from 4% a decade ago

"In an industry where the default setting is always male, where the number of female creatives coming up on the stage tonight to accept awards is tiny compared to the number of men...For me, the Glass Lion is a perfect opportunity for self-examination," Jury president Cindy Gallop said on stage while announcing the winners.

In addition to the inherent virtue of workplace equity, the thinking here is that more diversity in the office can lead to more diversity in the output, so the twin problems go hand in hand.

Getty said it often takes an extra dose of creativity and originality to push beyond the gender-norm roles and stale plotlines that often infect ads and render a story with real depth. She hopes the high-profile success stories in this department will serve as a beacon for other advertisers to follow suit in tackling these themes.

"I think that the best advertising helps to drive cultural conversations," Getty said. "We're making culture as much as we're reflecting it."

The Glass Lion's big winner this year was a campaign for Procter & Gamble India's Whisper brand of sanitary napkins that playfully debunked a superstition that pickles will rot if menstruating women touch them.
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