Calling out the boy’s club: why Maybelline is targeting discrimination in the gaming community

As Maybelline takes a stand against the discrimination of female and LGBTQIA+ identifying gamers, Mumbrella's Kalila Welch spoke to the team behind the latest campaign to understand why the cosmetic giant is doubling down on its commitment within gaming.

Part of the L’Oreal group, Maybelline has long enjoyed a strong position in the Australian beauty market, but efforts to reach the ever-sought after Gen Z market have forced the cosmetics juggernaut into new and unfamiliar places, as it reimagines its position in the lives of a consumer base that increasingly live out much of their lives online.

The brand first identified the world of gaming as a potential avenue to connect more deeply with these hard-to-reach consumers 18 months ago, and while L’Oreal Australia’s marketing director Alexandra Shadbolt says the brand is still learning its place in the gaming community, Maybelline seems keen to affirm its commitment to the space.

“We really have a strategic focus with recruiting Gen Z consumers,” explains Shadbolt, noting that the brand is always working at meeting consumers where there are – in the case of Gen Z, gaming is a growing hotspot.

However, as with any community, engaging authentically is another issue entirely, and with Gen Z “demanding more from the brands they engage with than ever before”, it became apparent that Maybelline would need to connect more deeply with the experiences of young women and LGBTQIA+ members in the gaming community.

“We conducted this study last year to try and understand a little bit more of that, the gaming space and our consumers. We really quickly saw the darkest side of that world and I think it became apparent very quickly that something has to be done,” says Shadbolt.

“I think the challenge for us really was ‘how do we design a campaign that is so much more than just a product campaign or just a purpose campaign?'”

Ultimately, the campaign would need to drive awareness of the cosmetic brand’s 2022 Brave Together initiative in Australia, which in partnership with mental health support platform, ReachOut, is working to normalise conversations around mental health for its young, and largely female consumer-base.

Working with its digital agency of record, Hero, Maybelline created the ‘Through Their Eyes’ campaign, raising awareness of the experiences of female, trans and non-binary gamers in partnership with prominent male gaming content creators.

Hero executive creative director, Shane Geffen, saw the brand’s existing global Brave Together initiative as an obvious ‘in’ to connecting with digitally native audiences authentically.

“We kind of started from ‘okay, well, if you are going to play in that space, how can you engage with the audience and be a part of that community without forcing your way in?’. So we looked at what Maybelline can do to be genuine in that space.”

With the connection between gaming and mental health drawn, Maybelline and Hero last year set out to investigate the full scope of the issue, engaging Bastion Insights to deliver a national survey into discrimination in the Australian gaming space.

Bastion Insights group client director, Tabitha Lucas says the National Gamer Survey aimed to “challenge and test preconceptions and hypotheses about what is actually happening in the gaming space in Australia”.

“From anecdotal feedback and overseas data, we assumed harassment and discrimination were things female identifying and LGBTQIA+ gamers were experiencing, but there was a big question mark around to what extent was this being experienced. Surveying a large number of people across Australia allowed us to find out this extent and discover just how prevalent discrimination in gaming really is.”

The research, which sampled 601 gamers aged 16 and over, revealed that harassment or offensive behave had been experienced or observed by 92% of LGBTQIA+, 84% of females and 72% males while gaming online.

In addition, 90% of female gamers believed that harassment ‘must be addressed’, 85% believe it is a major problem, and 75% believe it is unsafe.

The results also told Maybelline that there was a level of complacency amongst male gamers that must be addressed of the issue is to be resolved – with 71% of young male gamers ignoring harassment or discrimination they had observed.

Geffen says that the results proved that the issue exists, but communicating that message effectively to primarily male-identifying perpetrators would be a challenge.

For that reason, the campaign leveraged male gamers, who would be able to engage their young male audiences in a way that is relatable to their own experiences.

“We do know that the perpetrators of this abuse, majority of the time are males. So hence why we wanted to actually show them what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes,” says Shane.

In the three minute film, Joel “JoelBergs” Bergs and Drew “DrewD0g” Warne are confronted with discrimination first hand, as they enter the gaming world in the shoes of a female. As female-identifying gamers, Amber “PaladinAmber” Wadham and Luna “Luminumn” look on, the men join a first-person shooter game with female-altered voices and fake female profiles..

In less than two hours of game play, Bergs and Warne receive a slew of abusive comments, while Wadham, and Luna commentate the situation, finding alarming similarities with their own experiences online.

As the spot finishes, Bergs asks Wadham why she continues to play despite the abuse, to which she puts down to her love of playing the game. “It doesn’t have to be a boys’ club or a girls’ club. Gaming is made for everyone, and should be experienced by everyone,” she offers.

While the campaign first launch on February 16, across Maybelline’s social and digital media channels and in-store, the work is set to culminate tomorrow in Maybelline’s live gaming tournament, the Eyes Up Cup. The competition will see 32 of Australia’s “most impactful” women in gaming compete on a custom Maybelline New York Fortnite mod map, designed especially for the campaign in partnership with Click media, Google and Hero. Maybelline will also mark the contest with a $10,000 donation to ReachOut.

While unusual for a purpose-driven campaign, Through Their Eyes has been somewhat fittingly anchored in Maybelline’s mascara offering – the category in which it claims to be the most penetrated in market.

“In full transparency, this was a big and really daunting campaign because there are such obvious challenges with bringing a purpose-led campaign anywhere near product,” admits Shadbolt. “And with Maybelline being such a famously product-led kind of brand, we didn’t want to be disingenuous, which is why we invested so heavily upfront in conducting the research and really diving into that world.”

It is not the first time Maybelline has played in the gaming space, with the makeup brand having invested consistently in the burgeoning Gen Z audience that is native to the gaming community. In the last 12 months, Maybelline has proven its commitment women and LGBTQIA+ players in gaming, including partnerships with Twitch and Logitech.

Unsurprisingly, the opportunity is one that it must compete for alongside the likes of global brands like Benefit, NYX, and others who look to cash in on the opportunity to connect with young gamers.

“The gaming space has risen very quickly,” explains Shadbolt, “but it’s so diverse and there are so many different types of gamers and games.”

In terms of differentiating itself from competitors, Shadbolt says that Maybelline’s focus is on “staying true to brand”.

“We’re very, very clear on our brand mission and what we stand for, and authenticity is really key with everything we do. So, for us its about being really close to our consumer, understanding and listening to what they need, and understanding how they behave.”

Shane Geffen, ECD, Hero

For what will be a two-phase campaign for the brand, with the campaign moving from organic awareness, through to influencer engagement and paid media placements, Shadbolt says she has been heartened by the positive responses from consumers already.

“Within the first few days our short film had had over one and a half million views on TikTok alone, all shared organically,” she recalls. “But what’s more encouraging is the positive comments and the support. I think so many people are feeling seen and are sharing their own real life examples, and I think for us, that is the magic.”


Client– Maybelline New York
Marketing Director: Alexandra Shadbolt
Digital Marketing & Comms Lead: Alana Pozzebon
Brand Business Lead: Adele Courgenay
Brand Engagement Manager: Liz Odey
Brand Manager MNY Eye: Tess Norman
Digital Brand Manager: Dawid Zastawnik

Agency– Hero
Executive Creative Director: Shane Geffen
Creative Director: Andrew Woodhead
Art Director: Charlotte Smith
Copywriters: Anneliese Sullivan, Will Fox
Senior Designer: Aaron Wickers
Head of Strategy: Tallon Mason-Kane
Group Business Director: Charlie McDevitt
National Digital Managing Partner: Tim Evans
Lead Project Manager: Jenny Pham Manuel
Producer: Grace Quinn
Editor: Joel Sharpe
Online editor: Adrian Katz

Production– Truce Films
Director: Jessica Barclay Lawton
Executive Producer: Elise Trenorden
Producer: Carla McConnell
DOP: Jesse Gohier-Fleet

Sound Design & Music – Gusto Studios


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