OPINION17 February 2012

The ‘his & hers’ ad campaign is upon us

Fast food chain KFC has announced its intention to roll out its first ‘his and hers’ TV advertising campaign to support the release of its ‘healthy’ non-fried BBQ Rancher burger. But is it really important for brands to target men and women separately to achieve coverage or can marketing to both sexes be less gender specific?

Fast food chain KFC has announced its intention to roll out its first ‘his and hers’ TV advertising campaign to support the release of its ‘healthy’ non-fried BBQ Rancher burger. But is it really important for brands to target men and women separately to achieve coverage or can marketing to both sexes be less gender specific?

KFC is not an obvious candidate for gender-bending, so we’ll assume that this is a straightforward male vs. female perspective on the same proposition. It makes sense given the wealth of evidence suggesting that men and women are, in fact, different and might have a different perspective on food. Contrast this with the approach of Lynx who, launching their female range, have chosen to stress the shared territory of youthful sexual attraction for their “Unleash the Chaos” TV ad.

This all introduces a really interesting and conceptually simple way of targeting. For example, many grocery brands are now bought by men rather than just “housewives”, but I wonder whether advertising has really kept up with this in anything other than token ways. Yes, advertising might focus on a gender-less product truth or human insight that the brand addresses, but developing comms which address only a predominantly female or male or mono-gender audience must be a compromise.

However, given that KFC is embarking on two separate advertising campaigns, what happens if I, as a bloke watching “women’s TV” see the women’s version first, and vice versa? Might this give me the impression that I believe the product is aimed at women, which influences my behaviour towards the product moving forward? 

This in turn could affect potential reach. One of my colleagues did some exploratory work on this for a beer brand in the US where they would shift advertising around states. Normally they would assume reach is a combination of spend versus ability to find a target population. Given the chances of a woman and a man seeing a single advertisement are about the same, a brand would have to spend twice as much (or something similar) to achieve the same level of reach as a traditional, more generic ad, although the impact you would expect would be greater as the ad is targeted. The big question is whether the impact advantage outweighs the extra cost of advertising to reach your total target.

Which brands would be ripe for this double-gender approach? First of all let’s re-imagine classically, but perhaps mistakenly, gendered categories and see what we can do with those: “male” categories like cars, technology, finance, and “female” categories like food, laundry and household cleaning. Would a more overt and genuine addressing of the female perspective on cars break the stranglehold of the “metal porn” and twisty mountain road formula? And would an authentically male perspective on household cleaning do better than resort to tired stereotypes of modern “life juggling” but still caring housewifery? Or is this an old fashioned stereotype of what advertising is like?

Things have changed somewhat since the 70s, but actually a lot of the modern gender-neutral advertising seems to ignore the gender angle on brands and products. Lots of products that are used in different ways by men and women (mobile phones for example) often feature non-gendered people of generally trendy man-woman appearance/persuasion communicating and connecting… but in identical ways.

Perhaps we should call for a refreshingly adult approach to gender, as KFC seems to be adopting. Whether because of nature or nurture, men and women are different, and whilst they increasingly use and buy the same products and brands, they use those products differently, they respond to those brands differently, they respond to emotional and rational messages differently, and they like and engage with different styles of media, advertising and content. And so maybe the age of the “his and hers” ad is upon us.

3 Comments

9 years ago

Using gender / technology combination can strengthen a campaign approach and message. Saw this technology and thought of the above, this could compliment the his and hers trend nicely? http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-17099518

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9 years ago

KFC is mentioned in this article - however, BK have been doing this for some time now with their Queen range of burgers designed to complement The King's Collection... a dual approach that successfully targets the differing needs of each gender.

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9 years ago

Great forward-thinking idea from KFC. I recall that at their launch in 1989, First Direct ran a great pair of ads simultaneously on ITV and Channel 4. One execution (on C4) showed a positive reaction to the idea of a 24-hour day telephone bank with no branches. "I can call them up at 3am" trilled the star of the ad. The other execution (on ITV) showed a negative response to the idea of First Direct. "How will I pay in cheques?" he mopily sang. I seem to recall the end-frame said something like First Direct, 24-hour telephone banking, It will never work. I guess first direct were not segmenting optimists and pessimists but showing how new and innovative they were. I am not sure KFC are really showing how innovative they are, but are showing they are a fast food chain that thinks about women.

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