In UN Women’s Subtly Shifting Ad, Times Change as Inequality Lingers

Erich & Kallman created the NGO's decades-spanning spot for International Women's Day

A newscast about gender inequality in the workplace only seems to change in this spot from Erich & Kallman. UN Women
Headshot of David Griner

It’s a sad reality that technology often changes more quickly than society does.

That fact is brought to life in a compelling way in UN Women’s ad for International Women’s Day 2020. The organization turned to agency Erich & Kallman for its message against lingering inequality.

In the ad, what appears to be a 1950s newscast rapidly evolves in almost every way—except the message being conveyed.

“The struggle for gender equality has been fought over many generations. While there has been some progress on women’s rights and empowerment, it has not been deep enough or fast enough. Not a single country in the world has achieved gender equality,” said Oisika Chakrabarti, chief of communications and advocacy for UN Women. “The fact that we could still be watching the same news as our grandparents, as this PSA shows, means that we simply have not seen enough progress.”

Eric Kallman, co-founder and CCO of Erich & Kallman, said the concept for the ad was formed last year while his team was working on another client’s International Women’s Day spot and began researching statistics about working women.

“For as much as our world talks about women’s equality, it was appalling to see the lack of real progress. We were looking at each other saying that these stats could be from the 1950s, and that’s where the idea was born,” Kallman said. “Thankfully, equal pay is slowly moving from cultural conversation to actual initiatives for companies. But the bigger battle for workplace equality—fair pensions, access to well paying STEM jobs and mandatory maternity leave—seems to evade our collective conscience.”

UN Women says that at the current pace of slow improvement, it could take 99.5 years to achieve gender parity, per the WEF’s Global Gender Gap Report of 2020. The global advocacy organization also notes that the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was approved internationally 25 years ago, but no country in the world has achieved the platform’s goals for gender equality.

Filmed in a single take (though certainly not the first take), the spot required careful choreography and consistency.

“We knew we had to design the choreography to be seamless,” said director Doug Walker of Caruso Company. “I broke the script down into sections, giving our talent and all of our stagehands key words from our script to act on. We were nervous, but as soon as we rolled a test take and played it back we knew we had something special on our hands.”

Each stagehand standing out of frame was given a word in the script to use as a cue, letting them know to swoop in and make a change to the set.

“We were able to refine timing and movements and nail it pretty early,” Kallman said. “We were also blessed with a talented actor, Paul Ghiringhelli, who nailed it for us every time. He never screwed up a take, so we were free to focus on all of the elements of the transition.”


Client: UN Women
Social Media Team Lead: Sarah Gilbertz
Audiovisual Specialist: Marisa Grattan

Agency: Erich & Kallman

Production Company: Caruso Company
Director: Doug Walker
Director of Photography: Norman Bonney
Executive Producer: Robert Caruso
Producer: Vieve Haag
Production Coordinator: Janae Bassignani
Assistant Director: Annie Spiegelman
Gaffer: Alan Steinheim
Production Designer: David Daugherty
Prop Master: Aaron Young
Wardrobe: Molly Rebuschatis

Postproduction: 1606 Studio
Editor: Brandy Troxler
Executive Producer: Jon Ettinger
Visual Effects: Matt Trivan
Color: Doug Walker
Mix: M Squared Productions
Sound Engineer: Co-Founder / Mark Pitchford
Music: Butter Music
CCO/Composer: Andrew Sherman
EP: Annick Mayer
Producer: Stone Irr

@griner David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."