Cannes Lions

No Room For Clichés

ENGINE, London / RAF / 2019

Film
PDF
1 of 0 items

Overview

Entries

Credits

Overview

Background

We shot scenes of real women in the RAF and juxtaposed them with an audio track mimicking the cliched way women are portrayed in ads. The stark contrast between the two highlighted the absurdity of those clichés whilst landing a powerful point: if the RAF could fly above these stereotypes surely the rest of society could do the same.

This idea hinged on the realism and believability of the cliched messages. Crafted to sound as convincing and accurate as possible, we referenced contemporary (but no less cliched) adverts, so they felt familiar to audiences today. The lines had to not only highlight outdated attitudes towards women but also had to have a dual meaning, working with the various real roles of women we portrayed. Out of context, there is a humour to the absurdity of the juxtaposition between audio and visuals.

Idea

The creative idea elevated this tension between polar opposites into a rallying cry that worked as a call out to our industry and a powerful statement about the RAF:

WOMEN SHOULD BE DEFINED BY ACTIONS, NOT ADVERTISING CLICHÉS.

We brought this idea to life in a film that juxtaposed scenes of real RAF airwomen with instantly recognisable soundbites mimicking the advertising clichés women are sadly too familiar with.

This created a weird and at times laughable contrast between the two, highlighting the absurdity of those clichés. In isolation, they could almost hide below conscious attention, but when placed against the reality of the RAF, they were impossible to ignore.

Even potentially negative aspects of the RAF, such as the need to wear a uniform, were transformed into a positive when contrasted to a cliché like ‘a woman’s worst nightmare is wearing the same thing as another woman’.

Strategy

Our industry likes to celebrate (and congratulate itself for) brilliant campaigns like This Girl Can or Fearless Girl.

But the reality is most advertising isn't like that.

This wasn’t about a few bad apples like Protein World. It went far beyond that. Across categories, countless brands still relied on lazy gender stereotypes, from celebrating mothers as the bearers of house chores to implying an almost biological addiction to shoes.

Uncovering the prevalence of this practice in our industry was a depressing effort, but ultimately led us to our breakthrough:

Whilst brands have been very successful at using advertising to point their finger at something (the beauty industry, men, Wall Street etc.), it was almost ironic that no one had pointed the finger squarely at advertising itself.

This wasn't just an untapped opportunity. It was an angle that few brands could tackle as the RAF could.

Because nothing could stand at a starker contrast to the clichéd way women were portrayed in advertising than the gritty reality of women working in the RAF.

This unlocked our strategy:

FAKENESS OF AD CLICHÉS VS. REALITY OF RAF WOMEN

Execution

This idea hinged on the realism and believability of the cliched messages. Crafted to sound as convincing and accurate as possible, we referenced contemporary (but still, cliched) adverts, so they felt familiar to audiences today. The lines had to not only highlight outdated attitudes towards women but also had to have a dual meaning, working with the various real roles of women we portrayed. Out of context, there is a humour to the absurdity of the juxtaposition between audio and visuals.

We wanted to keep the film as real as possible, so grading and post was applied with that in mind. We replaced skies to match weather conditions from different shoot days and added minor elements to enhance scenes that couldn’t be captured on camera. E.g. in the opening humanitarian scene we added smoke and debris that would have been dangerous to shoot on location so close to working helicopters.

Outcome

More than 50 brands entered the Channel 4 Award, including big names such as HSBC and Cadbury, but no one else realised that advertising had never pointed the finger at itself before.

By outsmarting them, we took home the £1M prize in airtime (a 25% increase to the RAF's budget) and launched a campaign that placed the brand in the spotlight like never before.

In only a few weeks live, it reached 42M people, purely through earned media – from mainstream news shows and women's magazines to the House of Commons, and, of course, the ad industry.

Though it's still early days to measure the full impact of the campaign, this initial response has given us plenty of reasons to be optimistic.

After all, one year ago we would be hard-pressed to picture the RAF alongside brands like Nike in articles showing how to communicate with women.

Similar Campaigns

9 items

Life is not a play.

UNICEF SCHWEIZ AND LIECHTENSTEIN, Zurich

Life is not a play.

2024, UNICEF

(opens in a new tab)