PRmoment Leaders PA Mediapoint PRCA

Maaate in the age of Tate: can ‘a word’ tackle the rise of misogyny?

Cow's Mark Perkins reviews one of the most talked about campaigns of the summer - Ogilvy's ‘Maaate’ from the Mayor of London to tackle misogyny.

Other than the Barbie film (with its underlying theme of tackling misogyny), the other most talked about campaign around this issue this summer has to be ‘Maaate’ from the Mayor of London. The integrated campaign included an interactive ad, a comedy set from Romesh Ranganathan with 2.5m views, and billboards, including the giant one at Piccadilly Circus.

Rather than just discuss the admirable craft of the creative, the campaign also got me thinking about the behavioural science planning that went into how different audiences have reacted to it, and how Maaate will be measured.

Firstly, it’s proven to be divisive and controversial. The industry, aside from a few dissenting voices, loves it. It comes from a good place and brings the issue to the forefront. It’s received a huge amount of media coverage, some of it positive, - such as Sadiq Khan in Vogue - and a considerable amount negative. Whilst backed by The Fawcett Society, Maaate has also received a lot of heat from feminists and women’s rights campaigners who consider it ‘feeble’ and for failing to address serious societal issues that are a consequence of sexism and misogyny.

The campaign is based on research by the behavioural science team at Ogilvy, drawing on male friendships to provide a comfortable ‘call to action’ for an intervention “without making things awkward” or” ruining the friendship”. Research, attributed to the Mayor’s office, said shaming was not an effective strategy for dealing with the issue.

Let’s go back to 1989. One of the most effective and longest-running behaviour change campaigns – principally targeting men – launched in Australia. ‘If you drink and drive, you’re a bloody idiot!’. Road deaths dropped 37% in the following 12 months. The campaign slogan ran well into the next decade. So, what’s changed with men? More on that later.

What needs to be considered is the hailing of the success and impact of a campaign at launch. Was the Apollo 11 mission to the moon a success when the rocket launched, or rather when Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon? Or when he got back to Earth?

As I stated at the beginning, most comments and articles in the creative industry have been on the whole positive. Here is an editorial from The Drum:

‘Love it or hate it, you have to admit its anti-misogyny campaign on behalf of the Mayor of London, must have hit every KPI within hours of launch…It’s a reminder that the only worse thing than being talked about is not being talked about.’

This is a ridiculous statement. There can be only one KPI on a behaviour change campaign designed to tackle misogyny, and that is to reduce misogyny through a change of behaviour. And that can’t be achieved in hours.

Secondly, the point about it sparking debate and conversation. The impact cannot be measured in coverage, conversation, nor the godawful metric of reach (if I shout, ‘LOOK AT ME!’ at the top of my lungs on the concourse of Waterloo, I may have ‘reached’ several hundred people, but almost all of them will either ignore me or think I’m a moron).

This brings us back to the target audience of young males. Will the message stick in a week with other distractions such as The Ashes, the Harry Kane transfer saga and…Pornhub? This is the first generation who from childhood, thanks to their phones, had instant access to ‘normalised’ misogynistic porn and content at the tap of a button – widely shared with their peer groups.

Meanwhile, those of us in our London media bubble dismiss ‘influencer’ Andrew Tate as toxic and absurd. Yet, millions of young men around the world seem to agree with Tate's views about masculinity, women and their place in society – which is to serve and submit to men. Men who question this are ‘pussies’.

Tate’s pernicious ‘content’ – and that of his imitators – is seductive at a time when women are becoming more empowered. The message is appealing, crafted, and repeated over and over. Never mind young men, teachers are reporting his misogynistic opinions repeated and enacted in classrooms by boys as young as 10 and 11. Can a gentle, reductive ‘Maaate’ be enough to counter someone influenced by Tate ‘bro’ culture?

Is Maaate therefore a great campaign or a bad campaign? It is neither. ‘Maaate’ can only be judged over time on its purpose. Behavioural science has given us a hypothesis that is now being stress-tested post-launch. If it fails to change behaviour then the coverage and the conversation are redundant. It will have failed.

As with the aforementioned Australian drink drive campaign, if there is demonstrable proof that the ‘Maaate’ approach and execution reached, influenced and changed the attitudes and behaviours of young men – as the behavioural scientists at Ogilvy say the hypothesis is designed to do – it is a great campaign. It is a success.

I genuinely hope it is the latter. Personally, I prefer an alternative approach: if you are a misogynist, you’re a bloody idiot. (And you aren’t my mate).

This week's PR Stunt Watch was written by Mark Perkins, executive creative director at creative comms agency Cow.

PR Stunt watch is a new regular column on PRmoment. Subscribe to our editorial updates to get this feature every week.

If you enjoyed this article, sign up for free to our twice weekly editorial alert.

We have six email alerts in total - covering ESG, internal comms, PR jobs and events. Enter your email address below to find out more: