Study: Progress For Women, People Of Color In Ads Has Stalled

Despite an avalanche of proclamations within Adland over the past few years,  progress for women in ads seems to have stalled, according to research from the Cannes Lions and The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.

Male characters outnumbered female characters two-to-one in 2019 ads, dropping from a high of 40.2% female characters in 2014 ads. Additionally, male characters also have twice the screen time and speaking time as female characters.

There are similar findings related to race/ethnicity. The representation of people of color in 2019 advertisements declined to 38% from 43.1% in 2018. However, on a positive note, research reveals characters of color are equally as likely as white characters to be featured in both speaking roles and visually prominent roles.

The report finds other groups are even more marginalized. Only 1.8% of characters with a discernible sexual orientation in ads are LGBTQ+ compared to 10% of people globally. The findings for characters with large body types were also particularly bad. Only 7.2% of characters are shown with large body types – well below the 39% of people with large body types globally, while one-in-five characters with large body types are a punchline.



“Media is one of the only business sectors where equitable representation can be achieved overnight,” says Madeline di Nonno, CEO, The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. “Brands are creating ads all year long. The very next creative brief can be inclusive! The stalled progress to achieve cultural equity and inclusion indicates that a lot more work needs to be done to reach gender parity in advertising.”

More from the report can be found here.


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