The McCann Time Capsule: Launching the UN’s Int’l Women’s Year Campaign in 1975

The McCann Time Capsule: Launching the UN’s Int’l Women’s Year Campaign in 1975

Between our already-famous State Street statue of a little girl facing down the bronze Wall Street bull and our new Microsoft creative work encouraging girls to study science & math, McCann seems particularly active this year in support of International Women’s Day.  But the agency is far from being a newcomer to this cause, as shown by our internal records going back over four decades when the United Nations first became involved in this gender advocacy.

The UN first became involved with International Women’s Day in 1975, a year that it declared as International Women’s Year.  UN We Believe, a program organized to build U.S. business support for the UN, approached McCann New York to create a campaign to promote awareness for the cause. The initial pro bono ads used the theme “Promote Equal People” and were aimed at men. (McCann Germany also became involved with an effort in that country themed “Remove prejudices—build up partnerships” that addressed the particulars of that market.)

One of the first McCann NY pro bono ads carried the headline, “It takes longer to change minds than it does to change laws” and Esquire was the first men’s magazine to accept it.

A second carried the headline, “If your wife made the same kind of money you make, could you handle it” with body copy that still seems relevant.

“Sure, you say. But when it actually happens, a lot of us can’t. It catches us right where it hurts most. . . our egos.

“Because it means sharing our job in life. And letting go of that built-in image of ourselves as breadwinners. It means maybe we’re not so indispensable.

“But equal paychecks means sharing the stress and tensions of earning a living, too. And all the physical labor of caring for a family. It means finally working side by side as equals to get this world together.”

Just as International Women’s Day became International Women’s Year, this too morphed into the U.N. Decade for Women 1976-1985. And McCann remained involved on an ongoing basis spreading the word about the part women play in business, social, political and cultural life around the world, and adding theme lines such as “Women Mean Business.” 

The campaign series that connected men to recognizing their wives as workers expanded to include references to their daughters. “Would you hire your daughter?” asked one ad headline, dealing with the “prejudice against hiring women.” The copy ended with “The next time you turn down a woman to hire a man, think about it.  Because she’s a woman. . . will your daughter lose out too?”

The agency’s involvement in this program was recognized. At a gala dinner at the U.S. Mission to the U.N. in 1978, McCann was honored for its contributions, accepting an award from the Business Council for the U.N. Decade for Women.

For more on McCann’s women’s history, check out this online resource: http://womenofmccann.tumblr.com/

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