Our audience is actively paying to avoid marketing. And paying to find the content they want to see (Netflix / Amazon). To build attribution and affinity within such an important societal topic, we needed to move from a marketing to entertainment mindset. To create the work our audience wants to seek out.
From research, pre-production, post-production and in its output, Womanhood is pure documentary work, born of entertainment. Standing at a 22min feature, it's a raw un-skipable piece of film. It does what entertainment should do: it provides value, makes you question the world, and brings you on a journey.
We live in a world where borders are closing and walls are being built; where divisions widen as inequality marches on. In South Africa, women are far from free. Safety is at a harrowing low level, and patriarchal, gender abuse is high and normalized.
There's no commercial opportunity to be had here. As a brand serving women, how could they address such a raw societal issue? Our objective was to give the brand, a credible and authentic entry point into addressing issues as raw and emotional as abuse and rape. This was not about commercial opportunity, this was about contributing to society and depositing value in a meaningful, impactful way.
In a comms world usually defined by brand-first narratives or awash with push-purpose campaigns that fall short, this was about building affinity while delivering contribution and representation. This was about enabling a brand to be a positive change agent.
Describe the creative idea
We needed a clear shift from a marketing mindset to an entertainment mindset that builds association, affinity, and contribution to culture. And in the advertising space, the documentary format, done responsibly, allows for an unparalleled level of authenticity and audience connection.
Womanhood is a 22-minute film that looks at the underlining patriarchal societal issues that contribute to the normalization of abuse. Viewed through the lens of a series of themes, it's a tapestry of experience and stories, told through up to 35 interviews. The film delicately navigates the complexities of being a woman in South Africa and shines a light on the previously unaddressed issue of where women find themselves right now. Compelling and deeply raw at times, the film also offers hope and asks for a more positive future through unity and support.
Describe the strategy
Brands have never been easier to ignore; the world is loud. The challenge was well beyond demanding attention, and instead was about how we credibly have a voice on a deep cultural issue.
For a brand with women at its heart, a brand that stands for all women, one could assume this would be easy. But in South Africa, the category is built on mistrust, driven by price and of low consideration. Insurance is an afterthought when something happens and there is a post-crime service characterized by bureaucracy and a lack of structured care.
Consequently we wanted to move 1st for women from insurance to assurance and position it as a brand that listens, understands its audience, and the issues, beyond insurance, that they face every day.
Describe the execution
At the heart of this film is a diverse team of female researchers who passionately worked across South Africa. Influencers and well-known speakers were prohibited; instead, they spent two months speaking to women from across the social spectrum, ranging from friends and family through to community leaders. We captured 32 interviews across 7 days to make sure we have a broad spectrum of narratives. The editing process was arduous but integral to weaving the right narrative. Upon completion, we did multiple tests with people from all walks of life to check story blind spots.
WOMANHOOD finally went live on YouTube and the brand's site in October 2019. Staying real and direct, we brought the film into local film festivals for screenings across townships and cities. While Womanhood represents a pulse of what's happening now, it will serve as a narrative to drive the agenda around tackling this societal issue.
Describe the outcome
1st for women became allies in the hardest of times, we gave them credibility in an area brands find hard to navigate, giving assurance in a category defined by mistrust.
We showed the audience the category can have meaning beyond direct messaging and the clichéd humor and mascot ads that dominate that market.
And we didn’t stop there, to truly stand by the trans-community, and go beyond lip-service and ‘woke’ purpose, our work led to 1st for women making a landmark decision to amend its female insurance policies to include "all women" regardless of gender at birth.
And while we may calculate the thousands of online views, the hundreds of screenings, the PR, the posts, the comments. Beyond any KPI or metric, after watching this film, if one man thinks differently about rape & abuse, or one woman feels unity and hope, we've had impact and made work that matters.