This week, the ad industry took tentative steps toward addressing sexual harassment within its ranks, as Time’s Up Advertising held 14 meetings across the U.S. and Canada.
During the Facebook livestream, leaders of the group described it as “a call to action” and said individual agencies would be left to develop their own specific solutions.
Meanwhile, many agency teams have offered their own takes.
In one particularly interesting project, three junior creatives—art director Kristina Samsonova, copywriter Mariah Kline and art director Oscar Gierup—teamed up with a group of female illustrators to create a book titled The ABCs of Sexual Harassment.
The group says the “ABC book for adults,” which is written in a children’s read-along style, aims to communicate concepts like consent and mutual respect that are “often misunderstood or disregarded” despite increased media attention in the #MeToo era. Each letter helps explain a subject, and the book has its own Instagram account.
“Respect for others is something we’re taught in kindergarten, but in the wake of movements like #MeToo and Time’s Up, it’s clear that as a culture, we need to do a better job of educating people how to treat each other,” Kline said.
Samsonova added, “We wanted female artists to come together for a good cause so that women could show power through their art.”
Gierup and Samsonova previously got some attention for a 2017 project in which they ran geo-targeted “hire me” Facebook ads to reach executives at the Cannes Lions Festival, even though they weren’t able to attend themselves. (The stunt appears to have succeeded.)
The trio, who participated in a Q&A with Adweek, said they’ve already received preorders for the book from several unnamed agencies and that all profits will go to Time’s Up Advertising.
Adweek: What inspired you to start concepting on this project?
Mariah, Kristina, and Oscar: Sexual harassment is something that has affected all of us. It felt like there was finally a conversation being had, and we wanted to be a part of it.
How did you then arrive at the idea of an ABCs book?
We’d played around with the idea of using a children’s book to send a message before. For this project in particular, the idea we wanted to communicate was so straightforward, this was the perfect medium to highlight that. Sometimes people grow up and forget the things they learned along the way. We wanted to teach them like kids in a very simple and engaging way.
How did the process work in terms of getting all the designers together?
We wanted to get more women involved in the project, so we contacted artists that we love on Instagram. Thankfully, many of them were just as excited about the book as we are, and they chose to donate their time and talent to show how powerful women can be when we work together. We then assigned letters, and the artists interpreted the subject with their own style.
You said you plan to donate profits to the Times Up fund. Do you think their efforts are the best way to combat sexual harassment?
We think the most important thing about the project is bringing more awareness to the problem. We’re excited by Time’s Up, specifically their advertising initiative, because our industry needs it more than others, and that’s why we chose to donate the proceeds to them.
Do you get the sense that progress has been made on the matter at large and particularly within the ad industry?
We believe that progress has been made. #MeToo started something big; it gave people the strength to speak up. But sexual harassment is systematic. It’s not just about identifying a problem—it’s about changing behavior. What we need now is for culture to change, and that will happen one step at a time.
Advertising specifically is one of those industries that has a legacy of patriarchy, so it feels like progress in this matter has been slow moving. But there are so many bright, creative people in advertising who are working on changing that. We’re very optimistic for the progress that’s still to come.
The project’s illustrators include Proy B, Desarea Guyton, Olly, Anna Alekseeva, Pauline Rochault, Ellehell, Ludovica Giannone, Martha Gabriela, Federica Giannone, Svetlana Volvkova, Evelina Sara Stasyte, Léa Binda, Molly Illusion, Fiona Luciani, Dasha Saykina, Clemence Barbiche and Kristina Samsonova.