BMO says it’s breaking down barriers for women

Who: BMO, with FCB for creative and strategy, UM for media.

What: “Zero Barriers,” new advertising for International Women’s Day. The ad picks up the themes of the bank’s recent “Barrier Breakers” content series launched in February for Black History Month.

When & Where: The new ads—one for Canada and one for the U.S.—are live now, running online only across Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and BMO-owned channels.

Why: The bank has made supporting female entrepreneurs a priority since at least 2018, when it pledged $3 billion in capital support. Last year it made an additional commitment to minority-owned businesses as part of its “Zero Barriers to Inclusion 2025” goals.

In February, FCB and BMO launched a social content series celebrating Black-owned businesses. The new content released Monday spotlights how female entrepreneurs succeed in spite of the barriers society puts in their way. “The idea behind ‘Zero Barriers’ is to imagine how business owners could thrive if the barriers in their way were dismantled and removed from a system of bias and discrimination,” said Nancy Crimi-Lamanna, chief creative officer for FCB Canada, in a release. “They are succeeding despite these barriers, but they should be succeeding without them.”

How: The new ad released for IWD features three women entrepreneurs, each of whom has faced a significant barrier to getting their business off the ground: one is underfunded, one is underestimated, and the other undervalued. BMO’s $3 billion in capital is intended to help those women break those barriers. “More than ever consumers are engaged in dismantling inequity in their communities, and they expect and demand that brands to do the right thing,” said Crimi-Lamanna. “BMO is committed to doing the right thing.”

Another video released in mid February featured Kim Knight and Shanelle McKenzie, co-founders of yoga studio The Villij. “[W]hen we first started in 2017, we didn’t see anyone like us,” said McKenzie. “As first-time entrepreneurs, the barriers started almost immediately… With the BMO grant, we are really able to build this platform—for not only women of colour in North America, but women of colour on a global scale.”

And we quote: “At BMO, we are committed to driving meaningful change and championing gender and racial equity in the financial system… This work celebrates the women who have overcome barriers to financial progress and demonstrates the action we’re taking to remove barriers to inclusion for our employees and communities.” —Catherine Roche, chief marketing officer and head, social impact at BMO Financial Group

David Brown