The Revelation of the Unspoken

Siddhi Shah

An insight into the UN Women Ad Campaign “the Autocomplete Truth” which exposed the stark gender inequality and discrimination that exists today.

Over the past decade, the way in which women are presented in the media has come a long way. With women-centric films and increased focus on gender equality by the government and corporates alike we have seen greater acceptance of feminism. However, there exists a deeply entrenched assumption and stereotype of a “woman”, as a mother, daughter, homemaker, or caregiver, who is responsible for the household.  

“The assumption of women as the one responsible for the household is further emphasised when advertisements related to cooking, cleaning, washing products predominantly feature women.”

This is because we live in a world that is surrounded by prejudiced visuals, imagery, and other representations that help us perceive our surroundings. A factor that contributes to the human lens and the representation of the worldly domain is advertising. It forms a vast superstructure within our human existence and has a major influence on our day to day lives.  The assumption of women as the one responsible for the household is further emphasised when advertisements related to cooking, cleaning, washing products predominantly feature women. In today’s time, it is important to curate advertisements that bring a positive change in society by addressing the issue of gender inequality. 

The United Nations organisation for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women or UN Women works for women empowerment by raising awareness of biases that exist against women and highlighting the long term imbalance of inequality. To address the issue with advertising,  it created a campaign called “The Autocomplete Truth” in 2013. 

“Google searches starting with “women should” depicted in the advertisement showed regressive attitudes about women and how they should be in order to be accepted in society.”

The Autocomplete truth was an exemplary campaign that provided insight into the discrimination that women face across the world. What made it unique was the fact that the campaign collated stereotypes that exist against women and responded to them. Google searches starting with “women should” depicted in the advertisement showed regressive attitudes about women and how they should be in order to be accepted in society. The search gave autocomplete results like “women should be in the kitchen”, “women should be slaves”, and “women should not have rights”. 

With the campaign, UN Women tried to highlight the sexism that exists even today. It challenged the higher social, political, and legal rights that men have enjoyed over women. Gender equality in terms of all peripheries is the major message that was emanated to the audience. 

“What stood out for me was the curation of the google search bar showing auto-completed results on the mouths of the four women, depicting how women have been silenced over the years”

I believe the UN campaign gave a voice and strength to women. What stood out for me was the curation of the google search bar showing auto-completed results on the mouths of the four women, depicting how women have been silenced over the years. It evoked the viewers to look at the grim reality of the prejudice and discrimination against women that continues even after decades of global progress on gender equality. It also showed how women are perceived on a global platform. Are women only supposed to be in the kitchen? Are they only supposed to serve men? Don’t they deserve the same rights economically and socially as men? 

“The Autocomplete truth had visibility of 755 million people globally and was tweeted by accounts of official authorities of more than 50 countries”

The campaign in the digital age created its trend with hashtags and left impressions online. It emerged victorious with 1 billion and 224 million impressions on Twitter. It also created #womenshould hashtag empowering women and acknowledging their achievements. The Autocomplete truth had visibility of 755 million people globally and was tweeted by accounts of official authorities of more than 50 countries. It became the most shared promotion of 2013 on Adweek.

The campaign got a lot of positive feedback. It had a profound impact that was reflected in headlines across the globe in leading news and media companies like CNBC, The Guardian, Times of India, Buzzfeed, and Cosmopolitan. The campaign also served as a helpful educational campaign for women empowerment. Companies such as Bajaj Allianz made a campaign after the hashtag to support UN women and it’s global equality purpose. This campaign served as an important medium to make consumers of internet media see that women are more than just being responsible for the household.

“The campaign made viewers question the culture of oppression that has persisted through generations”

The Autocomplete Truth campaign made viewers question the culture of oppression that has persisted through generations. It was positioned to provoke a widespread reaction from the new-age audience, to personify the positives of globalisation in society. It asked the audience what they were doing to make a change to the sexist perceptions of women that have been prevailing for years. In 2020, this campaign is still relevant as we see women across the globe bearing the burden of housework, along with working from home and being the primary caregivers. With Covid lockdowns, there is evidence of drastic increases in reports of domestic violence against women. It is important, now more than ever to look back at the Autocomplete Truth campaign from 2013 and challenge and question the inequality that persists today.   

“It’s time for each one of us to call out sexism at our workplace, educational institutions, and our homes”

I believe that the Autocomplete Truth Campaign revealed the patriarchal bigotry that has been encrypted in our society for generations. It has been a powerful attempt to challenge the power dynamics that exist even today. We need to build a  society in which women are equal to men in all situations and at all times. It’s time for each one of us to call out sexism at our workplace, educational institutions, and our homes. That is when the Autocomplete Campaign campaign will succeed.

Siddhi is currently pursuing Media and Communication from the University of Arts London. She strongly believes in bridging the gap in all societal aspects and cultures. She believes in gender equality and empowerment of the youth. She is also a music junkie who loves to travel and has her own fashion blog called Maisonsash.

Images from Ad series for UN Women by Memac Ogilvy & Mather Dubai