by Sabina Rossignoli
Public institutions and organizations, research centers, charities and companies sensitive to diversity issues have sometimes the chance to have budgets for socially involved advertizing. They hire then PR agencies that will handle those budgets and buy appropriate media platforms. I have recently been exposed to the organization of a campaign promoting women’s awareness against violence. Budget was small, but still enough to have decent visibility. However, something went wrong and the client was not satisfied for reasons pertaining to the target group. To prevent problems, when you want to run a campaign on women’s rights make sure of the following:
You have a well defined target group… Women!
Target groups are the staple of any media and communication campaign. Before you buy a medium, make sure it matches your own target group. In a campaign on violence against women, the target group should be at least women. Women of any age, as violence affects women starting from childhood (average starting from 15 years old in Europe).
Do not target men, it might really be a wastage. It would be like targeting ice-cream brands for a campaign against sugar. Or targeting General Motors employees for a campaign promoting public transportation. Got the message? Statistically men “do not care” about violence on women; they are more often on the side of perpetrators. Of course, not all of them, but they may contribute to maintain a culture of indulgence towards violence on women. Instead, gender mainstreaming focuses on convincing women to report experiences of violence to the authorities (even if at this stage authorities are really behind in matters of protecting women, but that is another story). According to the last EU study Violence against women: an EU-wide survey*, “women who are victims of violence seldom report it to specialist services” (p. 14).
Although it is common belief that violence affects women from lower socioeconomic categories, this has been proved if not false at least approximate. There has certainly be a wider focus in the sociological literature on the overlap of gendered violence and social exclusion. However, violence on women – in its verbal, sexual, psychological and physical occurrences – affects women from all social backgrounds. According to the same study,
between 74% and 75% of women in a professional capacity or in top management jobs have experienced sexual harassment in their lifetime… Recognition needs to be given to the fact that professional women in management and other top positions are at risk of sexual harassment” (pp. 12-13).
It is capital to define which women you want to target: age, cultural background, religious background, profession, etc… A good awareness of these elements will allow for the perfect choice of the media to buy. Same as above: do not buy a page in a newspaper if you want to talk to a public of dentists. But you may buy a free newspaper with an extremely high circulation if you want to reach everywoman.
When you have your title, the good position might be where you don’t expect
Advertizing sometimes assaults the press, we know it by experience. And sometimes it can be really uncomfortable. For instance, when we see and ad of underwear next to an article on a cruel case of rape. Or an ad for a pizza chain in a special on poverty and hunger. On the one hand, these – lunatic – associations produce visible ethical issues. On the other hand, they hinder the brand’s image: that is why PR agencies go nuts about positions more than any other aspect of the campaign. The truth is, there is not always control on the issue. If you can control this, for a women’s campaign it is good to be in sections fashion/shopping, cooking, society, culture, rather than in sections close to finance and politics. The latter are 70% male dominated, hence the big wastage risk.
Inspiration for your awareness campaign: feminist politics
It sounds always very bad to mention politics, mostly when in the same sentence as feminist. And however, women-oriented advertizing should look at feminist politics for inspiration (it is too often the other way around). Feminist political activism has always been a special arena for social change for women. It has contributed to create spaces where to discuss women issues in protected contexts. It does advertizing to gather more women and to pass knowledge on to the next generations. And it works! Where do events aiming to sensitize the population to feminist issues gather? In shopping areas where everywoman walks and buys. In female-dominated moments of leisure, that is where you can get women. Not at the door of the Central Bank or at the door of the Parliament. Get out of your head the idea that shopping sections are lame for noble social causes. Violence affects everywoman and the latter lives in a gendered world – again, like it or not. Hence to do your promotion of women privilege a female-dominated media space, even when it looks superficial. Women have to fight against violence alone, hence any female media space will do.
*It is a shame that the EU report does not analyze the impact of race and class on violence against women in a systematic manner. But it has the merit of listing forms of violence and bringing the attention to women’s awareness. And the 8th March approaches, the International Women’s Day! You can download a length resume of the study here: Violence against women: an EU-wide survey.