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Darkly Comic Campaign Shows Women the Tool We Really Need to Ensure Gender Parity


For International Women's Day, the Young Minds for Gender Equality Foundation (YM4GE) is offering us a practical, immediate solution to the pay parity problem: The Business Bulge, a pair of underpants that provide women with enviable endowments for professional settings. 

In a promotional video by DDB New York, styled like a dull investors presentation, a character named Clark Hoffman presents The Business Bulge's benefits. 

"For every dollar a man makes, a woman makes only 70 cents. And we're talking about people doing the same job, here," he begins. That gap hasn't changed in 10 years. Why? Is it capability? He wonders. Work ethic? Charisma?

We're all on the edge of our seats now. "There is only one difference," Hoffman concludes. "Women make less than men because men have more volume in their pants!"

This insight is stated with triumphant vigor, the kind perhaps shared by the CERN scientists who finally saw evidence of The God Particle. "That's responsible for 22 cents on the dollar!" he continues, thrusting a finger toward his slide, which—awkwardly enough—highlights a man's comfortably padded business (circled in case it isn't obvious). 

The Bulge promises to infuse billions of dollars into the workforce.

"Women, you want to make as much as a man? Wear that to work. You just go ahead—you slip it under your workplace attire, and you are ready to go," Hoffman proclaims. And don't discriminate (ha!): Wear it to job interviews. Meetings. Presentations. "We have got you covered," the hopeful CEO beams. "With this, women will be able to receive the respect and salaries they deserve!"

Hoffman, whose showmanship is clearly wasted on these drab corporate settings, concludes with a gorgeous tagline: "Remember: A Bulge in your pants means a bulge in your wallet."

The website, GetaBulge.com, states its purpose plainly: "The Business Bulge is a fictional product. What's not fictional is the fact that in 2016, women still earn less because of their gender. That's not just wrong. It's embarrassing. Politicians aren't addressing the problem, and CEOs need a reason to act."

A more serious video features Hoffman at his desk providing straight, serious facts about the pay gap and its impact on the economy. In the background is a mannequin in professional female attire with a budge clearly in view.

"When we pay women equally, there's evidence to show that the economy grows. So closing the wage gap isn't just good for women; it's good for everyone," Hoffman emphasizes.

"Only 34 CEOs out of the Fortune 500 companies are women. So that's 466 men running the show. If you want to make a change, that might be a good place to start," he adds.

Hoffman transitions from one point to the next with scene cuts that feature the product—a spinning mannequin in well-hung, flesh-toned underpants (notably seamless, making them perfect for pencil skirts; it's the little things that count). 

The pay gap is a lot more complex than even Hoffman can highlight: SmartAssets recently reported that, in cities like Detroit, Kansas City and Indianapolis, women in tech are actually paid equally if not more than men. (Detroit wins the most cookies, with 122.8 percent higher pay on average.)

In cities like Washington, D.C., and Detroit specifically, women hold 40 percent or more tech jobs—which suggests that the more women work in tech, the smaller the pay gap gets. Consider this in the context of Silicon Valley, which is basically running the global tech show: At a company like Twitter, only 13 percent of women hold tech roles, compared to Facebook, which hosts 16 percent.

Silicon Valley arguably attracts more millennial talent than any other promised land in the world (barring entertainment meccas). For reasons like this, The Business Bulge is especially young adult-focused: In addition to weird videos for social sharing and the tongue-in-cheek website, celebrities and influential organizations—like the Women's Entrepreneurship Day Organization and Chelsea Film Festival—are also helping raise awareness. A hashtag, #stopdickingaround, encourages people to talk openly about both the campaign and its theme.

"YM4GE's goal is to empower millennials to turn their ideas into action, and harness real world solutions for women empowerment and the achievement of gender equality," says Gerardo Porteny Backal, co-founder and president of YM4GE. "We are so excited DDB was able to create a campaign that flips the status quo in a way that is culturally relevant and resonates with our audience using a language they understand." 

And while we may laugh at DDB's "solution," it isn't all that weird. There's a bizarre cottage industry of faux-penis products meant to "help" women stand a little bit taller—usually by encouraging them to stand while peeing. These range from the decidedly subtle Go Girl to the flagrantly phallic (and golden!) Shenis. Sadly, these products aren't make-believe—although their existence stretches the bounds of reason plenty more than the Business Bulge does.

"It's a ridiculous solution to a ridiculous problem, and that's what we want to convey," says chief creative officer Icaro Doria of DDB New York. "We are inspired by YM4GE's vision to empower both young women and young men equally to become the leaders of today. The goal of this campaign is to generate more conversation around pay equality for women in the workforce, help consumers learn more about the problem and find ways to tackle it." 

This marks DDB's first pro-bono (pun!) effort for YM4GE, and was produced by Hank Perlman, who directed many of ESPN's "This is SportsCenter" ads.

Below are more ads in which Clark Hoffman earnestly pitches The Business Bulge to people of different professions.

For actresses:

For men:

For CEOs:

For, well, you:

So what are you waiting for? Give the lady in your life the tools she needs to succeed. She'll thank you for it, probably once she's slapped you.

Agency: DDB New York
Chief Creative Officer: Icaro Doria
Creative Director: Bruno Oppido, Thiago Carvalho
Art Director:  Rachel Newell
Copywriter: Tyler Kirsch
President & Chief Executive Officer: Chris Brown
Account Director: Hollie Doran
Agency Producer:  Ed Zazzera, Amanda Van Caneghem
Social Strategy: Chiara Martini, Robin West

Production Company: Hungry Man
Director: Hank Perlman
Managing Partner / EP: Kevin Byrne
Producer: Caleb Dewart
DOP: Cale Finot
Production Designer: Paul McConnell
Production Supervisor: Sherra Fermino

Editorial Company: Cosmo Street Editorial
Editor: Tom Scherma
Assistant Editor: Dave Otte, Chrissy Doughty
Producer: Viet-An Nguyen
Executive Producer: Maura Woodward

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