NEWS29 January 2019

Audiences find ads still failing on gender

Media News Trends UK

UK – While marketers believe gender portrayal in advertising has improved, almost half of consumers feel ads are still not getting it right, according to Kantar’s AdReaction study.

Gender crop

The majority of marketers surveyed for the research ( 88% of male marketers and 76%) think they are doing a good job of avoiding the use of gender stereotypes in ads.

In contrast, almost half of the consumers studied ( 45%) feel women are portrayed inappropriately in adverts, compared to 40% who think women are depicted in a way that makes them think highly of the characters. For portrayals of men, the gap is wider ( 44% vs 35%).

Over two-thirds ( 68%) of UK ads analysed portray female characters as ‘likeable’ and/or ‘caring’, with only 4% showing an ‘authoritative’ female character (compared to 7% portraying a man as ‘authoritative’).

The study is based on 30,000 ad tests and survey responses from 450 global marketers. It includes data on attitudes to advertising among almost 40,000 consumers globally and brand equity analysis of 9,000 brands from Kantar Millward Brown’s Link ad database.

The UK research also found there is little difference in the way men and women respond to ads, irrespective of gender targeting, and few specific creative elements that will guarantee an ad’s success among one gender.

However, creative featuring only female characters has a more positive impact on audience engagement than adverts only showing men or both genders.

Advertising in the UK will no longer be allowed to depict ‘harmful’ gender stereotypes from June 2019 under a new rule introduced by the Committees of Advertising Practice (Cap).

Hannah Walley, joint head of media and digital at Kantar Millward Brown, said: "The progressive representation of gender in advertising has become increasingly important, particularly in light of the ASA’s ban on the use of stereotypes that ‘hold back people and society’. However, the views of the ad industry and consumers on how far things have improved don’t match up. Society has evolved – but the industry is lagging in its response."

Walley added: "Brands aren’t connecting with women or men as meaningfully as they could be. As an industry, we need to get out of our bubble and think hard about how to make ads that challenge outdated and over-simplistic assumptions, to resonate with as wide an audience as possible."