Cossette Chicago, an integrated communications agency located in the West Loop, guided twelve young women of Lake View High School through an amazing learning experience designed to enhance creativity and visual communication skills. The Ad Her initiative, designed by Cossette Chicago employees Katie Palmer and Julia Matthews wants young women to re-imagine advertising in two important ways: as a viable career field and as an important part of the narrative in a multicultural society. "We created Ad Her to not only inspire young women to pursue a career in advertising but to show them how important and needed their voice is right now in the industry." said Palmer. Participating students were able to add their voices to a broader conversation about diversity and acceptance.
Women, especially women of color, are underrepresented in the field of advertising. According to a 2016 article in Forbes magazine, women have made great strides over the last couple of decades in attaining higher level positions in the advertising field. Overall, this shift has not included women of color. Knowing that ads reach more people when varying perspectives are included throughout the process, Palmer and Matthews of Cossette Chicago wanted this program to specifically reach young women of color.
AdHer paired each participant with a mentor in the advertising industry. For weeks, with the support of these generous mentors, the young women sifted through print ads in recent circulation, selected one, and reconceptualized it to be more reflective of the diverse society in which we live. During the workshop on April 22, 2017 at Catalyst Ranch, a team of professional makeup artists, photographers, producers, copywriters, art directors, and account executives came in to assist the participants in bringing the redesign to fruition. In an evening reception, our Lake View students presented their redesigned print ad to a team of judges from Cossette Chicago, Leo Burnett, Thinking Box in Toronto, and freelance art directors. Check out their work! The original print ad is on the left, and the redesign is on the right.
The first place team, Mau, Isabella, Tiyamika, and Jasmine, redesigned a Zara ad with the slogan "Love your curves." "However," the group exclaimed, "the young women in this ad don't have any curves!" Lake View senior, Isabella Colon said the group picked this ad to redesign because of its narrow perspective. They changed out the models and the slogan to read, "Own your curves." From Colon's viewpoint, it's important to distinguish between "love" and "own" your curves. "Love your curves means that you accept your body. And this is a great start. However, when you OWN your body, you have pride. The difference between acceptance and pride really influences a young woman's confidence and comfort in who she is."
Co-creator of AdHer, Palmer says, " Julia and I were blown away by the talent of each and every student that participated. We are incredibly excited to share the ads with everyone and are truly inspired by the trailblazers and agents of change from Lake View." The University of Illinois, College of Media Studies sponsored this workshop with scholarships to a continuing education program. Five participants from Lake View High School will be studying media messaging and development in July at U of I, Champaign-Urbana.
As a STEM school, Lake View curriculum focuses on problem-based learning; identifying a problem and proposing a solution is an applicable skill in all career settings. Mainstream media does not reflect the diverse society in which we live. Through AdHer, these young women worked to find solutions for this problem. Using technology and art, Lake View students creatively redesigned ads to be more inclusive. As a result, these participants also find out that this is an industry that wants, and needs, to include their voices