'The photoshoot was particularly tricky' - Behind the Campaign, #MakeMoneyEqual

Third City founding partner Graz Belli discusses the agency's recent campaign for Starling Bank, focused on tackling the representation of women and money.

Credit: Starling Bank and Lensi
Credit: Starling Bank and Lensi

What was the campaign in a nutshell?

The way women and men are pictured with money in the media is starkly different. More often than not women are portrayed as naïve or inept with money, whereas men are shown as confident and in control. #MakeMoneyEqual tackles this inequality. We highlighted the problem and created our own free library of fairer photographs, the first step in making sure women are better represented by media and advertisers.

How did the idea come into being?

Starling Bank launched to give people an alternative to the banks of the past. Its mission is to make money equal and we wanted to amplify this. So much of our world is represented and influenced by image yet we constantly see articles illustrated with pictures of women looking comedically aghast at a money problem, holding a piggy bank like a child, or looking uninterested while the ‘man of the house’ sorts the finances. Diversity is also severely lacking, in terms of colour, age, sexual orientation and depiction of disability.

We worked with Brunel University to explore the difference in representation between men and women and money. They analysed 600 photographs from the biggest image libraries and we used the findings to make a better, fairer and free image library for everyone to use.

What ideas were rejected?

We considered if doing the research was enough, but felt that we couldn’t identify the problem without trying to provide a solution. The media would cover the research but creating the image library was crucial to the integrity of the campaign.

Briefly describe the campaign planning and process

Making our campaign watertight required three key elements:

1) An academic with nous. We partnered with professor Shireen Kanji of Brunel, a specialist in how women are portrayed in society

2) A representative and inclusive image library. We worked with Lensi Photography as its principal, Denise Maxwell, specialises in representative photography

3) Effective delivery. We arranged a media breakfast with Anne Boden, Starling’s CEO, professor Kanji, Maxwell and key consumer lifestyle, social affairs and money writers. We briefed picture editors on the resource and engaged with key stakeholders for support. We felt it important to land our message without being preachy or critical.

What were the biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

Getting representation right is difficult, so the photoshoot was particularly tricky. We had to take into account the types of women shown, the actions they’re taking, the settings they’re in and even the background objects in shot. But guided by the findings of the Brunel report and a photographer with great expertise, we were able to address the common pitfalls found in existing stock imagery. It may not be perfect but it’s a vast improvement on what’s currently out there.

How did you measure the results and what were they?

We’re measuring media reach, social engagement, image library homepage metrics and importantly the use of our photos in general articles about money, unrelated to the campaign. As with all clients, we monitor longer term brand metrics (awareness and consideration) and SEO factors such as strongly performing backlinks and domain authority.

A few weeks on from launch, media reach is close to 10m – and we’ve hit numerous nationals including this powerful byline from influential money writer Iona Bain. More than 250,000 people across social have interacted with the campaign, with some wonderful supportive comments. Finally, there have been thousands of downloads from the image library with our pictures being used in national news articles every week. We certainly expect to see impact on brand and SEO measures in due course.

What's the biggest lesson you took away from the campaign?

Not so much a lesson but affirmation that the most powerful campaigns put a brand’s values into practice. They have both a message and positive action.


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