2021 Winner

Canadian Women’s Foundation

Smells like Inequality


GoldSocial/Conversational Strategy

While it’s illegal in Canada to pay women less than men, the gender pay gap still exists in every part of the country. On average, women make 75 cents for every dollar a man makes.

Despite the indisputable facts, Canadians were no longer engaging in the dialogue necessary to enact change. The conversation fizzled. People returned to their never-ending Twitter and social feeds, focusing their attention on millions of other issues in early 2020, like Greta Thunberg’s heroic speech at the UN, the Amazon Rainforests fires, Lil Nas X’s remix of “Old Town Road”, any of Trump’s tweets (RIP to his Twitter account) or tales of a new virus in a land far, far away. The Canadian Women’s Foundation, Canada’s leading voice for gender equality, wanted to find a way to reignite the conversation about the gender pay gap. But they had no money.

In a culture where people spend so much time obsessing over celebrities, shock-value headlines, and clickbait, the best way to capitalize on these behaviours is to join them. To do this, the agency turned to the conversation millions of women were having about wellness, which captured a sizable fraction of the social discourse and attention.

As it turns out, while the spotlight had dimmed on Canada’s persistent gender pay gap, the internet was lighting up over another topic: Gwyneth Paltrow’s wellness company GOOP had just launched a $75 “This Smells Like My Vagina” candle.

They took this opportunity to steer the conversation towards the gender pay gap by creating a “This Smells Like My Penis” candle with a $100 price tag, 25% more expensive than the female scented one. With no difference in functionality between the two candles, the price difference highlights the disparity between men and women’s pay in Canada. In short, they made a ridiculous candle to call attention to an even more ridiculous issue: the longstanding and ongoing pay inequality in Canada.

While no shortage of brands take an educational approach when it comes to the pay gap, the Canadian Women’s Foundation broke through using parody to drive home an important point.
With zero media dollars and a couple of candle prototypes, they took a highly targeted influencer approach to their communications strategy. Using Instagram, they hyper-targeted select groups of highly influential journalists, influencers, and broadcasters who could embed the penis candle in online news feeds, social platforms, and the mainstream news cycle. They wanted to make sure the entire world hears about their penis candle and joins the conversation.

Every brand sends its campaigns to influencers and news publications hoping they'd cover it, usually resulting in mixed outcomes. But, in the Canadian Women’s Foundation’s case, a combination of speed to market and a bold approach yielded spectacular results. Through the hyper-targeted outreach and global media coverage, the agency helped the Canadian Women’s Foundation do what no other brand had succeeded at: reigniting a conversation about the gender pay gap. The” penis candle” reached people in over 20+ countries and generated $400MM+ in earned media. Even Gwyneth herself talked about the candle and the importance of closing the gender pay gap on The Late Show with Jimmy Kimmel.

The story was also covered on Vice, The Sun, Good Morning Britain, The Huffington Post, People magazine, and many more. All of this with $0 in media.

Creative Agency : TAXI
Chief Strategy Officer: Christine Maw
VP, Head of Strategy : Rafik Belmesk
President : Emma Toth
Chief Creative Officers: Alexis Bronstorph, Kelsey Horne Copywriter: Allegra Wiesenfeld
Art Director: Reid Plaxton
Integrated Producer: Kelsey-Lynn Corradetti
Account Manager: Shawne Elnicki

Have questions? Need help?
Contact Rowan Traynor at 1-416-408-2300 x213 or rtraynor@brunico.com.