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shEqual Round Up

February 2024


Bringing you the ads that get real and the ads that need to get equal.
The only newsletter that takes a critical look at gender and diversity in advertising today. 




In this months round up we talk about that H&M ad that’s been everywhere and why everyone has been so outraged.

Plus this month the famous Lamb Ad returns. Keep reading to hear our thoughts!





Get Equal
Ads from this month that are setting the standard by getting equal




‘Before Play’ via Ogilvy for New South Wales Government takes on regular STI testing in a way to make it fun for the younger generation.  

Their series of ads in 2023 Make No Doubt were some of our favourites of the year. This campaign also features casting that is far from the usual white, heterosexual representation we’re used to seeing. Instead, we’re shown diverse portrayals of people, including same-sex couples. It’s great to see ads portraying sex as fun – it’s not an easy sell to find the fun in STI testing, but we think they’ve nailed that!

In many cultures, food is a big part of what brings people together. The highly anticipated 2024 Australian Lamb ad via The Monkeys, part of Accenture Song, draws just on this notion.  
The Lamb ad has done it again! This clip is a rollicking good time – a hilarious take on the ‘generation gap’. It pokes fun across the generations, from ‘boomers’ home ownership, to Gen X’s obsession with social media. Its feel good message of the shared nostalgia over Australians’ love of food, in this case, barbequed lamb, brings the generations closer together.  We love seeing characters that reflect the true diversity of Australian society, and even more impressed to read that the making of this film was a multigenerational process.  

Find Their Drive from Toyota is part reality TV, part social good campaign and part ad.  

We follow the journey of four Australian adults who don’t have their driving licence; Zac, 30, partially deaf in both ears and vision impaired; Suzzanna, 48, who has failed her learner’s test six times; Harley, 32, who suffers from ADHD and Maddy, 35, a diabetic single mother. It’s an inclusive, heart-warming campaign in an engaging format, bringing awareness to the barriers of obtaining a driver’s license. Well done Toyota! 
We love seeing content that not only promotes an important cause but the adverting behind it challenges rigid stereotypes and and harmful social norms.  

Incolink’s ‘Drop The Act’ suicide prevention campaign by The Shannon Company aims to normalise construction workers having honest and open conversations about their mental health. The campaign challenges the stereotypical culture of the construction industry with men who are tough, stoic, and don’t share their feelings. It’s powerful campaigns like this that breakdown stigma and harmful stereotypes around masculinity and mental health. 

More ads that are getting equal: 




Have you released a new ad that is getting equal?
Let us know so we can feature it in our next newsletter! 





Get Real
Ads from this month that need to get real




H&M came under scrutiny last month, for a campaign that that objectifies young girls. The ad depicts two girls in school uniforms, captioned ‘Make those heads turn in H&M Back to School fashion’. Weeks later, Shein fashion label has come under question for the same type of inappropriate content. This ad depicting a young girl, with a blank face, posed to look like she has breasts. This not the first time Shein has been called out for this type of advertising content.  

shEqual frequently discusses seven harmful stereotypes often seen in Australian advertising. These stereotypes include ‘The Sexualised Women’ and ‘Passive Little Girl’. It’s concerning and dangerous to see campaigns depicting both stereotypes and ultimately portraying the sexualisation and objectification of young girls.  

From an early age, children’s aspirations and interests are shaped by the characterisations of gender that are limiting and stereotyped. Women’s Health Victoria and RMIT University, in the 2018 Advertising (In)Equality report, showed that children as young as 6 years old are affected by exposure to sexualised media images. Which can lead to children internalised limiting beliefs about what girls and women can achieve, increased body dissatisfaction and withdrawing from sport and physical activity. A more recent study, by the Australian Child Maltreatment Study, noted the role of media’s representation of gender roles as a possible contributing factor when discussing the experiences of child sexual abuse.

Advertising such as this contributes to a society that continues to objectify women and girls, continues to support a society that is unsafe for them. Children should be shown to be having fun, confident and comfortable, all things part of a normal experience of being young. The advertising industry and brands must do more to prioritise responsible marketing. The industry needs to ensure their content reflects all people in a respectful, progressive and un-stereotyped way.

Check out shEqual’s SH!FT Stereotypes Guide and our Content Creation Checklist to support better representation of women and girls in ads.

Sorbent’s ‘Behind Every Great Australian’ campaign cleverly taps into our daily reliance on the trusty loo roll. However, we can’t help but express a concern regarding some of the portrayals and stereotypes featured in the ad.  

The association of words like ‘hard-working’ with men and ‘caring’ with women perpetuates outdated gender norms. This campaign reinforces rigid gender stereotypes by associating the phrase ‘behind every hard-working job site’ alongside an image of a male tradesperson. In the same way, an exhausted mother is depicted with the tagline ‘behind every screaming tribe’. Domestic work should not be represented as the domain of mothers only, and the household should be recognised as the ultimate hard-working job site. 

Koh cleaning product’s first TV ad ‘I don’t know how to do it’ brings up some important topics like the gendered unequal division of household labour and weaponised incompetence – but still somehow leans into offensive gender stereotypes.  

This cleaning product ad depicts old tropes of men caring more about finance than cleaning, closing with the line ‘so easy that anyone can get the cleaning done’. This is disempowering and infantilises men, which gives an excuse for not sharing in household duties. By targeting the ad at women, they are reinforcing that it’s a woman’s job to delegate household tasks and make sure they are done. Using stereotypes to bring light to a gendered issue, doesn’t actually address the cause at all. Stereotypes by design pigeon-hole us into harmful and reductive roles and advertising and media need to move away from them once and for all. 





Get Involved
How you can get involved and take the next step




Make It shEqual Podcast  

This is a podcast empowering advertising to get equal and it is brought to you by the shEqual team Women’s Health Victoria.  

Join our host Sarah Davidson in engaging discussions with industry leaders, including Phoebe Sloane, Irene Joshy, Dalton Henshaw and Hilary Holmes, in exploring how inclusivity drives brand loyalty and success.   

With five fantastic episodes you can look forward to:  

Insightful conversations with industry leaders and experts.  

An exploration of what Australian consumers actually want to see. 

Understanding what it looks like to go beyond the diversity tick to show depth of character and point of view. 

Hearing from the brands who leading the way in authentically representing women and gender diverse people in ads and learn how the approach they are taking benefits the bottom line. 

All 5 episodes are available for listening, you can do this through Apple Podcasts, Spotify or YouTube



Learn more



Women’s Health Victoria has launched two new gender equality online courses from shEqual with a focus on the advertising industry. These short, accessible and interactive courses and are a great introduction to why advertising plays an important role in creating a gender equal world, the impact of sexist advertising and how advertisers can make a change. 

Read more about these upcoming courses below and sign up below to challenge norms and drive positive change. 



Learn more





shEqual is an initiative of Women’s Health Victoria.

Women’s Health Victoria is supported by the Victorian Government.

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