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AT&T tackles gender stereotypes in ads

News, 10 April 2017

NEW YORK: AT&T, the telecoms group, is seeking to ensure it consistently delivers realistic portrayals of women in advertising using a metric known as the Gender Equality Measure (GEM).

Fiona Carter, AT&T's Chief Brand Officer, discussed this subject at the Advertising Research Foundation's (ARF) 2017 Annual Conference in New York.

"We want the GEM score to be a key metric for us," she said. "We're putting all our advertising, past and present, through GEM score [testing]." (For more details, read WARC's exclusive report: AT&T champions equality in advertising.)

The GEM index was launched by the Association of National Advertisers' (ANA) Alliance for Family Entertainment last year, as part of the "#SeeHer" program, which aims to deliver a 20%+ increase in realistic depictions of women in ads by 2020.

In rating a particular ad, consumers are asked four questions: "What is the overall opinion of the female presented?", "Is she portrayed respectfully", "Is she depicted appropriately?" and "Is she seen as a positive role model for women and girls?"

The GEM methodology then compares each ad tested with a database of thousands of other creative executions, placing it in a wider context and allowing for benchmarking.

"I want systemic change, which is why I want to tackle things like casting," Carter said. "I don't want a one-off campaign. I want to tackle the very fundamentals of the process."

"It is, honestly, our duty to reflect our customers appropriately and authentically if we're going to engage, and connect [with] and remain relevant in their lives."

One element of this agenda, Carter continued, will involve holding "boot camps" with agencies – an idea building on efforts to increase diversity in creative teams.

"You can't make advertising the right way if you don't have the right people and different genders creating that advertising. So we have real commitments from our agencies to partner with us on this," she said.

"We've always had diversity requirements, but I would say this is taking it to the next level … I feel like it's in the zeitgeist. Finally, the culture has said, 'This is the time'. We have to go and solve for this."

Data sourced from WARC