As late as December 2022, the Association of National Advertisers was excitedly reporting that female and minority representation were on the rise. They left out, however, what that representation actually looks like.
Upon closer examination, it’s not such a great story. A review of 10,000+ ads found that women are actually backsliding in how we’re depicted. Portrayals of women in domestic roles rose 26% from just a year prior. Women with families? Double. Men, however, were shown as leaders or professionals 30% and 73% more often.
Excuses won’t get marketers far, especially when companies like Unilever are finding that 40% of women don’t identify with the people shown in their advertising. It’s kind of funny, given that women are actually the ones making the buying decisions.
This has been on my mind lately, as I watched the Women’s World Cup and consistently heard the most elite professional athletes, many with families and in their late 30s, referred to as “girls.”
Even cooler, I, myself, was called “the gal” to my face on a conference call with a video vendor last week. My blood still boils.
What gives? As 51% of the population and 47% of the workforce, why are so many people still choosing to get it wrong?
It’s true that showing anyone in a professional setting fell across all advertising last year, probably due to the post-pandemic shift toward hybrid work. But viewers don’t think about that. We only know what we see. And excuses won’t get marketers far, especially when companies like Unilever are finding that 40% of women don’t identify with the people shown in their advertising. It’s priceless, given that women are actually the ones making the buying decisions.
So, how does a marketer connect with women?
Maybe ask women. Or stop expecting women to look or behave in ways we do not. Or remember that 77% of women work. Gender equality initiative shEqual recommends checking your representation against seven stereotypes. (You can read the full guide here.)
But the thoughtfulness shouldn’t end with how women are depicted. What about men? The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media has some ideas for how to show man as three-dimensional humans, too. Like, maybe, stop making them beer-swilling breadwinners who are inept at parenting.
Relationship building begins when you speak to your audiences, rather than at or about them. Want to get to know your targets better? First, start a conversation with FATFREE.