Watching television can lower a child’s self-esteem. Quite the statement, I know. But here’s the thing: Children tend to compare themselves to the people they see on TV. So if you’re a girl — or a child of color — you might grow up believing your options are rather limited.
And it’s not just children feeling the effects. Ninety-one percent of women believe advertisers don’t “get” them, according to National Geographic’s “America Inside Out” documentary, while another 44% say they don’t see themselves represented on TV or other forms of media.
Part of the problem is likely due to the industry itself. After all, women represented just 4% of directors for 2018’s top 100 grossing films, according to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film. The numbers are just slightly better for those producing films, with women making up 18% of executive producers in 2018.
All is not lost, however — at least in advertising. Recently, multinational alcoholic beverage company Diageo — whose brands include Guinness, Tanqueray, and Bailey’s — joined “Free the Bid,” an initiative calling for the marketing industry to include at least one female director in the bidding process for ads. And Diageo doesn’t just talk the talk — currently, 40% of its executive committee is female, with the intention of adding more women to the company’s board in the near future.
Next Step: Fairer Representation
A step in the right direction is for brands to adopt the Association of National Advertisers’ Gender Equality Measure (GEM) scoring system, which is used to quantify consumer reactions to the treatment of women in advertising and programming.
Several brands are already using it — and everyone should note an IRI study that found ads with the highest sales lift often have the highest GEM scores. Special K’s #SeeHer campaign, for example, had GEM scores well above average, and the sales lift the company experienced was greater than all others in the food category by more than 200%. Johnson & Johnson has also seen higher ROI from ads with fewer female stereotypes.
Besides GEM, improving the gender balance in marketing teams would also be beneficial, an opinion shared by the likes of former HP CMO Antonio Lucio (recently named CMO of Facebook). Lucio asked all the advertising and marketing agencies contracted with HP to “improve the percentage of women and people of color in leadership roles.”
The request wasn’t unwarranted. If you were to research the buying power in a home, you’d see that it's predominantly female — that includes products traditionally marketed to men. In fact, 65% of car buyers are female, according to Arnold’s Women’s Insight Team, so it only stands to reason that you’d want more women leading marketing teams.
The increase in diversity we’re seeing today — be it gender, racial, cultural, or sexual orientation — affords brands more than just an opportunity to represent our society in its truest form. You can also more narrowly focus your messaging to very specific groups and speak to niche audiences that are often more loyal in the long run. That's a lot of power that's currently left untapped.