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The strange world of #MeToo marketing

This dress records how many times the wearer is groped. It’s part of a campaign by Schweppes–yes, the beverage brand–to draw attention to sexual harassment.

The strange world of #MeToo marketing
[Source Photo: Bubball/iStock]

In a recent video by Schweppes, the sparkling beverage brand, three women visit a nightclub wearing sparkly dresses. But unlike your average ad for a drink frequently consumed at bars and clubs, this video highlights how frequently women get groped in these places.

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The video, which Schweppes created with its advertising agency Ogilvy, highlights the problem in the context of Brazil, where 86% of women have reported being harassed in nightclubs. The brand worked with engineers and designers to create a dress that tracked how frequently a woman was touched against her will. The video zooms in on the experience of three Brazilian women. After nearly four hours at the club, they were touched a total of 157 times. That’s more than 40 times an hour. Men who were at the club that night were invited to the lab to see what women experienced.

It’s important to acknowledge the video for what it is: An ad designed to get more people to buy Schweppes. The idea is that viewers will see the video when it pops up on their Twitter or Facebook feed, and associate Schweppes with progressive, feminist values, which may make some people feel more loyal to the brand. Schweppes has realized that there’s money to be made by capitalizing on the #MeToo movement.

That may not be a bad thing. In a talk last week, Christopher Wylie–the whistleblower who revealed that Cambridge Analytica used 87 million Facebook users’ data without their consent to help the Trump campaign–pointed out that brands are powerful because they have large platforms and are associated with people’s identity. Wylie was referring specifically to fashion brands, but the principles relate to all brands with a lot of brand recognition.

In the talk, Wylie said that Cambridge Analytica had manipulated people with an affinity for all-American brands like L.L. Bean and Wrangler to support Trump. But Wylie pointed out that it is possible to reverse-engineer this process, and use a brand’s platform for good. Brands can also align themselves with positive things, like diversity, inclusion, and not groping women in clubs.

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About the author

Elizabeth Segran, Ph.D., is a staff writer at Fast Company. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts

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