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Everything that Josy Paul does is flawless: Madonna Badger

Madonna Badger, Chief Creative Officer and Founder Badger and Winters, channeled her inner Wonder Woman as she gave out the powerful message of #WomenNotObjects. Quoting the eponymous superheroine from DC Comics, Badger said: “Only love can save this world. So I stay, I fight, I give. That’s my mission.” 

The advertising maven, who has been in the industry for more than 25 years, got real as she spoke about motherhood, the accident that took her children and her parents away from her, and how life taught her that one can never have enough control. Through a series of powerful films, she showcased how one can, if they really care, change the narrative of the industry and the world. 

“1 million girls suffer from anorexia in the US alone, skyrocketing the suicide rates in the country. Research shows that 80 per cent of little girls at 11 say that they would rather have cancer than be fat. We need to take care of our women.” And the filter to use in doing so is empathy! “Women are sexual beings, just like men. It’s okay if she wants to be seen as pretty. But that can’t be weaponised to an extent when you stop seeing her as a woman and start seeing her as a thing,” Badger said emphatically. 

Madonna Badger took some time out from her busy schedule at Goafest 2019 to speak to Adgully on the fight for dignity, equality and sefl respect for women in all walks of life, why it is still such a huge challenge.  

What made you want to come out and take up this issue?
We were working with global company Avon and we wanted to find a new ALS challenge (laughs) and we did Red Lipstick. The whole premise was - wear red lipstick and ask for a raise. Women who wore the lipstick said they loved it and that it made them feel empowered to take on the world. But would they wear it to ask for a raise? They said no. They would never do that. 

It was a total conundrum and didn’t make any sense. We did a lot of research and found so much of the common sense research that I was giving around that 80 per cent of 11-year-olds would rather have cancer than be fat. We were finding academic research on women and test taking fully dressed vis-à-vis in a swimsuit. It was prevalent throughout society that for women to be taken seriously they couldn’t look pretty or wear red lipstick. The world around them was pressuring them to stay in a constant state of shame and anxiety and never be able to measure up. 

That’s when we decided that we were never going to objectify women again. 

How was it taken by the industry?
There was a huge response, but then we lost all of our clients. Everyone was not interested and we had to turn down a $3 million account because they wanted us to say all these hideous objectifying things. It took about 2 years to really turn around. We had to ask people to take pay cuts and let go of a lot of people. 

I gave a speech at Cannes Lions to about 5,000 people and was a superstar, but back at the ranch it was like nobody rooted for us. 

Last year at Cannes, you led this movement towards empathy. Could you elaborate on that?
That was our fourth filter on how to understand if you are objectifying women. In this country, you have women like Indira Gandhi who was Prime Minister, and then you have women who are Bollywood stars dancing. Are these two different types of women? Or are they just women? As women, we can be Prime Minister or we can be extremely sexual and dance, so don’t take us and make us into things. 

What are the challenges for advertisers today doing work for global brands?
The campaign that came from North America – ‘Face Anything’ – has gone across the globe and has been loved by everybody. That idea is so powerful that people love it all over the world. Just as brands are global, now sentiments are global too. Young people are connected to their mobile phones non-stop and they are up-to-date as much as anyone. What is happening right now is the idea that we are equal – we are are different, but we are equal. 

Do you think empathy will kill humour?
Empathy doesn’t mean you can’t laugh about it. Empathy isn’t a serious thing. It is a serious gauge. The whole idea is to stop treating women as if they were props and made of plastic. 

What are your thoughts on creative work coming from India compared to globally?
Everything that Josy Paul does is flawless. He is my friend; I love him and he is pretty flawless. I think that I’ve seen some work that has come out of India that has just blown my mind.

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