NEW YORK • It will not wash, says detergent maker Procter & Gamble (P&G), the world's biggest advertiser, if women are not given the chance to direct at least half of its product commercials by 2023, up from about one in 10 today.
It is a direct challenge to the male-dominated agency world, from a client that spent more than US$7 billion (S$9.5 billion) on advertising last year.
Its products include Tide detergent, Gillette shaving products and Crest toothpaste.
"Equality drives growth," said Mr Marc Pritchard, the company's chief brand officer.
"If we just achieve equality in economic empowerment between women and men, it could add US$28 trillion to the world economy. That's a lot of purchasing power."
At the Cannes Lions advertising festival on Monday, P&G announced a series of initiatives to support women in advertising and behind the camera.
It will sign on to the Free The Bid pledge, which requires at least one woman director to be included among the final candidates to produce commercials.
Free The Bid, a project by film-maker Alma Har'el, already has a pool of 700 directors operating in 10 countries.
P&G said it will work with other big advertisers and Publicis Groupe, its biggest advertising agency, to double the reach of the programme.
P&G is set to announce a partnership with American rapper Queen Latifah's Queen Collective and advertisers, including Hewlett-Packard and Smirnoff, to create two 12-minute films produced by women.
Tide, Olay, Pantene and other P&G brands will work to promote those movies, Mr Pritchard said.
The company has also teamed up with American journalist Katie Couric in support of her new media company, which she said will create content that accurately portrays women and other under-represented groups.
The first Web series, Getting There, will feature the stories of professionally successful women and will be produced through a partnership with TheSkimm, a news media company that focuses on a female, millennial audience.
Women's empowerment has become the centrepiece of P&G's marketing around the world.
The company's Whisper brand tackled menstruation taboos in India.
Its SK-II brand of skincare took on the pressure to marry faced by Chinese women and the stigma they feel when they do not.
In Saudi Arabia, the Generation Of Firsts campaign for Always products celebrated new freedoms for women in the kingdom.
It is hard to measure advertising's direct impact, but P&G revealed that this approach has worked for Always, SK-II and the Olay brands.
Recently, the company launched its Share The Load campaign in India for its detergent Ariel, which encourages men to pitch in with the laundry. Sales are up 60 per cent, P&G noted.