Cosmetics brand shines light on discrimination in gaming with a striking experiment 

Maybelline NY gives male gamers first-hand experience of the online abuse experienced by female-identifying gamers

Beauty brand Maybelline NY, owned by L'Oréal Group, is calling out online abuse that female-identifying gamers experience while playing, urging people to ‘Keep your eyes up, and call out abuse online’.

Through Their Eyes, a three-minute film promoted on its owned social media channels, sees Australian content creators Joel (‘JoelBergs’) and Drew (‘DrewDog) play with their voices altered to sound female.

They experienced various levels of abuse while gaming as usual, with comments ranging from ‘Go back to your sink’ to ‘I’ll fucking talk to you however I want to talk to you’. The film also shows two female-identifying gamers Amber (‘PaladinAmber’) Wadham and Luna (‘Luminumn’) watching, unshocked, given their familiarity with such online abuse.

The social experiment was created in partnership with agency Hero, Melbourne, and was ​​​​​​​based on the insight that 83% of Australia’s female-identifying gamers have experienced offensive behaviour online and that 55% of female identifying and 67% of LGBTQIA+ identifying players turned off their microphone to reduce the likelihood of being harassed.   

The short film was also broadcast at Maybelline NY’s Eyes Up Cup gaming tournament, which took place on 9 March. The contest saw 32 top women Australian gamers compete on a specially designed Maybelline Fortnite map.

Results / According to the agency, the campaign reached more than 100 million people through earned media within one week of the release. On TikTok, the video hit 1.2 million views in 48 hours. 

Contagious Insight 

Valuable ally / As we’ve covered in our trend, the number of gamers has exploded in recent years – 81% of Gen Z play video games – making the gaming space a gold mine for brands. But if your brand doesn’t have an obvious link to that world, the risk is creating marketing that is disconnected from gamers’ tastes and habits, jarring them out of their enjoyment and, if anything, creating antipathy instead of engagement.

For a cosmetics brand like Maybelline NY – which has no obvious ties to gaming – creating an impactful campaign that makes sense for the brand and feels authentic is no mean feat. Here, Australia’s number one makeup brand found a way to make its initiative feel seamless by anchoring it in its brand mission, ‘give everyone the self-confidence to express their beauty, to play and to make change’. The insight that people suffer from skyrocketing amounts of harassment links to its existing brand platform Maybelline Brave Together, a global mental health programme to destigmatise anxiety and depression. It gives Maybelline’s voice legitimacy and credibility to act in the space, allying with its target audience – who also game.

A Dove campaign released earlier this year used a similar strategy. It deployed its long-standing brand platform around challenging unrealistic beauty standards to champion more inclusive representation in gaming. For beauty brands and the like looking to make successful gaming campaigns take note: look at what your brand does best (in both cases building women’s self-esteem) and use that as a means to enter and add value.

Show don’t tell / Even with the connection with Maybelline’s brand platform and larger purpose, Through Your Eyes wouldn’t have hit home without the right execution. Here, the brand used recognisable Aussie gamers to make sure the campaign resonated with their followers and had broad appeal beyond beauty. As for the film itself, the undercover concept in the video is a powerful way to make the point that discrimination in gaming is pervasive. The social experiment is eminently PR-able too (see also Dove’s Detox Your Feed), and the suitably humbled bro gamers by the experiment’s end ensure that the brutal reality of the female online gaming experience doesn’t remain abstract. 

This campaign is also good example of how brands can shed light on lesser-known narratives and issues in a way that feels striking and legitimate, rather than opportunistic and tokenistic. As we note in our Untold Stories trend, ‘By uplifting marginalised voices and communities, brands can resonate with more people, and earn the trust of specific communities, while generating goodwill for using their platforms for positive impact.’

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