How Gretchen Carlson and Y&R Are Redefining Miss America in the Age of #MeToo

Jun 22, 2018

Harvey Weinstein. Kevin Spacey. Roger Ailes. Women are fighting back against sexual harassment and toppling some of the world’s most powerful men. Journalist, author and Miss America Chair Gretchen Carlson sparked a movement when she stood up against sexual harassment at Fox News, empowering thousands of women to raise their voices and demand change. In January, Gretchen was elected to take the reins of Miss America, and she’s transforming the organization to align with its original purpose: empowering smart, passionate, badass women.

Today at Cannes Lions, Gretchen joined Y&R North America CCO Leslie Sims and New York Times COO Meredith Kopit Levien to discuss the role brands play in the global #MeToo movement – and how they're upending the Miss America brand as an empowering platform in the midst of a cultural tipping point.

View the full session here and our highlights below:

Key takeaways:

  • Miss America is ushering in a new era of empowerment, working with Y&R to take on the challenge of rebranding a 97-year old brand in a moment of cultural reckoning.
  • Rebranding the organization means sweeping changes – from scrapping swimsuits, to a new visual identity, to “candidates” instead of “contestants.”
  • There has been a cultural disconnect in believing a woman can be smart, talented, funny, and attractive simultaneously. Miss America 2.0 will celebrate women and their beauty - however they choose to define beauty. We want to give women the self confidence to be whoever the hell they want to be.
  • The announcement that Miss America is getting rid of the swimsuit competition ignited conversation, controversy and backlash across the world. The decision shows the massive changes the brand is undergoing to realign with a modern society of empowerment, and the influence that the Miss America brand continues to have in culture.
  • Our goal is elevate the value of qualities that haven’t held as much cultural value before -- like intellect, skills, and hard work. And we’re taking the historic credibility and presence of the Miss America brand to reshape and redefine what aspiration looks like.
  • #MeToo has sparked a whole new mindset for women across the globe. The entire worldview for women is emboldened. They’re not victims, they’re not feeling as many barriers, and they’re empowered to do whatever they want to do.
  • #MeToo has grown far beyond harassment. All brands need to be changing to align with the mentality the movement has created. All brands need to be responding to #MeToo.
  • For advertising and marketing agencies, we have a responsibility to guide our brands out in the world – the goal is to navigate this new mindset for all of our clients.
  • Advertisers should be making content that women want to watch, share and produce. And everyone - women and men - wants to see content that shows talented, badass women.

Notable quotes:

  • “If there’s been one consistent thing in my life, if there’s a challenge in front of me, I go for it.” – Gretchen Carlson, journalist, author, and Chair of the Miss America Organization
  • “The women who come out of the Miss America Organization are at the top of their class, they are driven, they are brilliant.” – Leslie Sims, North America CCO, Y&R
  • On replacing the swimsuit portion with an interactive session: “When people say that no one will watch anymore, they’re saying thatfinding out about the substance of a woman is not entertaining. I find that highly sexist. It shows how far we have to go in culture in viewing women, their importance, and showing their smarts and talents.” – Gretchen Carlson
  • “Talent has previously been about the performing arts. But what about a woman who’s raised millions for a VC?” – Gretchen Carlson
  • “People look at these women as one-dimensional. Our goal is to show dimensionalized, fierce women who have passions and skills that they want to uphold -- whether they’re the first surgeon to complete a facial transplant, or running for Congress.” – Leslie Sims
  • “As far as the future of the #MeToo movement, it’s all about raising our sons. It’s about empowering our boys to respect women from the very beginning, in the household, into college, and into the workforce. That will be the final tipping point of the movement.” – Gretchen Carlson

Redefining Miss America