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Advertising’s gender stereotypes are hurting brand value, claims Kantar

Advertisers are lagging behind contemporary society’s attitudes to gender and their failure to reflect that is costing male-skewed brands, claims Kantar in its 2019 Ad Reaction report.

The WPP-owned research house’s survey found 66 per cent of Australians believe advertising conforms to gender stereotypes, despite 83 per cent of APAC marketers believing their advertising avoids traditional pigeon holes.

The survey also found 55 per cent of Australians believe advertising reinforces harmful social norms.

“Marketers need to acknowledge that while society has evolved, the industry lags in its responsiveness,” said Lizi Pritchard, senior account manager, media and digital at Kantar Australia.

“The status quo is not optimal, and many brands don’t meet gender needs of today’s consumers as well as they could. For example, just eight per cent of APAC ads and six per cent globally show women as ‘authoritative’, yet ads led by authoritative female characters outperform other ads. In particular, they generate more expressiveness leading to short-term sales boosts.”

“Format also has a strong role in effectiveness. Online ads in particular are failing to deliver for women, generating 28 per cent less brand impact than among men in 2018 globally.”

Globally, the report found male-skewed brands are valued at $US9bn less on average than gender-balanced brands with Kantar suggesting too many brands maintain historic gender skews and as a result are losing market share to brands with wider gender appeal.

Across the world, Kantar found men are 38 per cent more likely than women to be featured prominently in ads, despite progressive commercials, such as those led by ‘authoritative’ female characters, outperforming other campaigns.

“Humour in particular, works well across both genders, yet, despite being a core driver of creative success among males and females, marketers are missing an opportunity to engage females with humour,” said Pritchard

“Just 22 per cent of ads featuring only women use comedy compared with half containing only males. Re-addressing a balance like this can open brands up to more engaging and a more positive experience for all viewers.”

Pritchard added: “it’s imperative for marketers to acknowledge that the over-simplistic targeting approaches of some brands fails to acknowledge decision-making roles extend across genders in most categories.”

“Catering to feminine and masculine needs within the same campaign idea and creative executions and ensuring consistent copy testing, which includes gender equality metrics, will help you avoid the worst mistakes and learn how to optimise portrayals.”

“In fact, gender-balanced creative and media planning will likely result in more gender-nuanced campaigns. There is no identifiable overall difference in response to ads across gender lines.”

Rosie Hawkins, Kantar Insight’s chief offer and innovation officer, said the failure to meaningfully connect with female audiences is selling brands short and limiting their value.

“It is disappointing that female portrayals are generally less powerful; but encouraging that ads featuring more authoritative women are seeing greater success.

“It is not a simple journey though. Brands need to tread with care and have good self-awareness of how they are perceived. Some more progressive brands have greater permission to challenge gender stereotypes, and brands also need to account for local socio-cultural attitudes.”

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