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19 . 08 . 20

Rewrite the printed history

Words by: Print Power
History books, museum catalogues, advertising annuals but also printed annual reports or simple product sheets often need updating. The award winning case of Lessons in Herstory demonstrates how AR can include new stories in already printed history books.

The US-based Goodby Silverstein & Partners won the Grand Prix at The Drum Marketing Awards US 2020 with its ‘Lessons in Herstory’ campaign for Daughters of the Evolution. Here, the team behind the entry describe the challenges faced and strategies used to deliver this successful project.

The challenge

Daughters of the Evolution is a new, California-based nonprofit organization, founded by a board of young women. To accompany their launch, Daughters of the Evolution sought a campaign to champion the voices and ambitions of the next generation of women leaders so that they can build the world they want to thrive in. Feeling the unrelenting persistence of gender inequality in society, they came to Goodby Silverstein & Partners with the hope of finding a solution that could get to the root of gender inequality before it manifests in career glass ceilings, pay gaps and all the other consequences of gender inequality.

The strategy

Knowing we had to get to the root of the problem, we looked to when our identity formation is most vulnerable. Psychoanalysts (particularly Erik Erikson with his theory of developmental stages) point to it being during adolescence. It’s when we first ask ourselves “What will I be when I grow up?” and start to look for heroes and mentors to model ourselves after.

We then unearthed the troubling data that fewer than 11 percent of history-textbook references are about women. The consequences of that gender-representation imbalance are severe. Myra and David Sadker, the authors of Failing at Fairness: How America’s Schools Cheat Girls, put it well: “When girls do not see themselves in the pages of textbooks, our daughters learn that to be female is to be an absent partner in the development of our nation.” 

It thus became our objective to illuminate the stories of women in history so that adolescents can see the full picture of who has contributed to society and what might then be possible for them. But one major constraint was convincing textbook companies to rewrite, reprint and redistribute textbooks across America. We needed a creative solution that could bring our objective to life without physically changing textbooks.

The strategy is simple yet powerful in drawing our audience’s attention to the stark representational imbalance between men and women. Illuminating previously unseen women using AR technology is an effective, simple hijack to whatever medium we choose—from textbooks to statues and beyond.


The campaign

With the power of augmented reality and the expertise of New York Times bestseller and feminist historian Kate Schatz, we were able to rewrite one of the most popular US history textbooks without changing the textbook at all. With the Lessons in Herstory app, students are able to scan any photo of any man in their textbook and unlock a related story about a forgotten woman in history.

For example, when a student scans a photo of Abraham Lincoln, they’ll unlock a story about Rebecca Pomroy, a remarkable woman who is almost always left out of Lincoln’s narrative, despite the fact that she played a major role in his success. In order to bring these stories of powerful women to life and engage our audience, we used colorful illustrations and engaging animations—a stark juxtaposition to the outdated textbooks that have failed to change throughout the years.



The results

Within its first month, Lessons in Herstory earned 88 million impressions and over 21,000 downloads. And on July 23, 2019, it was named the Apple App of the Day, lending us an additional 7 million impressions.

It’s also been adopted in schools and implemented in curricula across seven US states. History institutions in the United States have approached us for partnerships, and we are currently in talks with the Smithsonian Institution about the possibility of launching a Smithsonian edition of the app. We’ve successfully reached and empowered students across the country and have forged important connections to enable Lessons in Herstory to grow and reach many more.

We’ve even gotten the attention of notable global organizations, such as UN Women and the World Economic Forum, and spoke at the Global Summit of Women in Switzerland—increasing our reach from national to global, and amplifying our ability to move the conversation around gender equality. And all this happened with zero dollars in media spend.

Article first published in The Drum on 23 July 2020