Beyond Advertising: Projects That Matter

17th March 2016 - Kelsi Byers

As a social media manager, I love going to set to take behind the scenes photos, meet the clients, and learn about the unique characteristics of each project.

All I knew walking onto the “As We Are” shoot was that director Christina Hodnet had partnered with The Canadian Women’s Foundation (the Foundation) and Havas Worldwide to work on a project that she very, very, strongly believed in. 

I got on set and saw two adorable young girls, dancing and having the time of their lives in front of the camera… then all of a sudden I focused on their shirts and was a bit shocked.

“Future Trophy Wife” read one.

While the other said “Allergic to Algebra” .

I couldn’t believe the messages on the shirts, and was in a short state of confusion.

After listening to Christina do what she does… directing… it quickly all came together and made sense.

The messages on these shirts are real ones that young girls are getting bombarded with on the daily. It’s especially apparent when boys are wearing shirts that say “I’m a Hero” while the female version says ‘I Need a Hero”… see the issue here? It’s a big problem and the Foundation is shedding light on the issue and teaching girls how to navigate through these negative messages and create their own empowering ones, such as “I’m confident”, “Girls options are endless” and “I am my own hero.”

When talking with Natasha Wilson, Director of Marketing and Communications at the Foundation she explained how the project was born. An amazing woman and Toronto elementary school teacher named Lorna Jones identified this major issue and wanted to do something about it. She created the “As We Are” workshops which encourages healthy and positive expression of messages from girls themselves. Girls were leaving the workshops feeling different… they were full of confidence and feeling empowered. She then approached the Foundation as she identified that there may be an opportunity to get the message to more girls through a partnership. And there was.

Out of this, workshops were created for girls aged 9 – 13 where they actually create their own t-shirts with messages that reflect them, in a positive, healthy, non-sexist way.

Wilson said “It’s giving the girls an opportunity to think critically. Girls are able to design their own messages and think of who they are and what they stand for instead of apparel companies telling them what to think.”

Havas Worldwide was brought in to understand the Foundation brand and program. They brought a handful of brilliant creative concepts to the table and decided to create a video that resonated the most with the girls and parents.

Where does Clark Stanley come in? Well, Havas highly recommended Christina Hodnet to direct the spot as she has a bit of a magic touch working with children and conveying messaged in a captivating and memorable way. Roll tape….


We told ya she has a certain flair for this kind of thing!

We asked our Clark Stanley director, Christina why this project was close to her heart and this is what she said:

“As parents we sometimes become desensitized to the messages our children our hearing. We forget that they hear these messages much louder and with much more impact than we do. We wanted parents to watch this spot and get caught up in feeling like this was a normal fun kids fashion campaign. The same way we get caught up in buying our kids fun clothes. But when you take a closer look you see the real cost of not paying attention to the messaging we are sending our children. We are labelling our girls, literally.”

It’s more than a just video sending a message and telling you what to think. It reflects the whole campaign’s idea of getting girls, and everyone really, to think critically and encourage thought provoking conversations.

When asked what the goal of the campaign was, Wilson said “to change behaviour, 100%. It’s to empower girls and for parents to make informed decisions. We also want the media to take note of the fact that we are all paying attention and we would like the apparel industry to stop using sexist deflating audiences and portray girls with strength and confidence.”

This project also is a perfect example of what happens when collaboration happens and everyone is on the same page. Jones’ idea and dedicated work in the classrooms, the partnership with the Foundation HAVAS and Clark Stanley offering time and talent and the media partners coming on board – everyone had a shared vision of what this could be, and everyone delivered.

After taking a break for lunch while on set, I got to sit down and talk to two girls, Kitty and Alex who were on set writing about the project for their U of T gender studies class. I asked them why they thought this project was important:

“We have to give girls the message they can do anything they want. They are told limits and that’s not good.”

Clark Stanley is very proud to be part of this project and thanks everyone who came together to make it happen.

Learn more and share with your kids –