International Women’s Day on Thursday is intended to celebrate women’s cultural and economic achievements and call for more gender parity. But as the calendar turns to March 8, it’s also time for the corporate pile-on of feel-good ads and product rollouts as brands rush to chime in on the pro-woman conversation.
Mattel on Tuesday unveiled 17 new “role model” Barbies for the occasion, honoring female icons such as Amelia Earhart and NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson. Modern-day figures like Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins and Olympic snowboarder Chloe Kim also got their own lookalike dolls.
During the Oscars on Sunday, Nike aired a new ad starring Serena Williams that commemorated International Women’s Day. In the commercial, the tennis star says she’s been criticized as not “the right kind of woman,” but has learned that “there’s no wrong way to be a woman.”
Uber released a video in Asian markets that seeks to disprove myths about female drivers there, and Facebook has designed IWD-themed cards, photo frames, and backgrounds to adorn text posts by users on mobile devices.
In a wackier stunt, a California McDonald’s location is turning its trademark golden arches upside-down so what is normally an M becomes a W for women.
The history of International Women’s Day stretches back more than a century, but supporting it in 2018 may feel especially urgent for brands, as it’s the first IWD since the #MeToo movement went viral, prompting a much-needed reevaluation of how corporate America, Hollywood, and the media treat female employees. But even in the current climate, where the public seems especially receptive to messages of female empowerment, brands must tread carefully. There was criticism, for instance, that Mattel’s ‘role model’ Barbies appear to fit the doll’s trademark silhouette and the McDonald’s W was panned by some on social media as an empty, odd symbol.