Lately, brands have been facing criticism for displaying false purpose, or ‘woke washing’.

But in the heat of this backlash, one brand has shown that when a purpose is genuine, backed up by insight and delivered with transparency, it can spark positive conversations surrounding global problems.

Released on International Day of the Girl Child (October 11) and led by Publicis, the theme of the campaign is focused on the gender pay gap, which was manifested in a video featuring young girls’ reactions to hearing about unequal pay for the first time. 

Here’s why ‘The Moment – It’s About Time’ from Citi is our October campaign of the month.


The insight 

Citi carried out primary research into the raw pay gap figures present in the company (claiming to be the first U.S. bank ever to do so). 

In the report published earlier this year, it states that: 

Citi’s female employees earned 29% less than their male counterparts while minorities earned 7% less than non-minority employees.

Also, only 37% of women are in senior positions, despite making up half of Citi’s workforce.

While statistics like these are shocking, the truth is, they’re nothing new and are easily forgotten. 

To truly mitigate change, Citi needed to build out the story in a way that resonated with consumers on a longer-term basis. 

The message

Citi invited young women (daughters of Citi employees) to answer questions relating to the gender pay gap, most of whom were hearing the news for the first time. 

A camera captured their confused reactions, which were followed by questions about why the gender gap exists, and why they think it’s unfair.

The key message of the campaign was to reignite the discussion around gender inequality in the workplace – a subject which has been brought to public attention time after time, with little change.

Carla Hassan, Citi’s chief brand officer, says, “Learning that women are paid less than men should shock you, but many of us adults are jaded by this reality. 

“Children, however, have a fresh perspective. They are surprised this is even an issue. The campaign videos and photos are meant to serve as a reminder to never be complacent in the face of inequality, and to push for a faster rate of change.”

Why it worked

A strong message deserves the right sounding board.

Though centered around the video, the campaign used multiple channels, both digital and OOH to drive consumers to engage.

Manhattan billboards featured the girls’ puzzled faces and invited onlookers to find more information on a branded microsite, while social media channels championed the hashtag #itsabouttime to encourage discussion.

Advertising page spreads were also purchased in national papers including the Washington Post, New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.   

Overall, Citi’s campaign showed that brands can promote societal good – even at a time when ‘brand purpose’ is under scrutiny.   

Our data shows that 57% of consumers state authenticity as the most appealing quality in a brand.

Through its self-evaluating, somewhat self-deprecating insights into the shortcomings of its internal structures, Citi was able to send out an authentic message that offered a unique angle to a discussion jaded by tired statistical rhetoric. 

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