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Advertisers still rely on stereotypes

News, 31 July 2017
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CANNES: Brands are failing to address the use of female stereotypes in their advertising, a study from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and JWT has revealed.

The research program drew on English language entries that were shortlisted or won prizes in the Film and Film Craft categories at the Cannes Lions between 2006 and 2016 – a sample ultimately incorporating 2,000 pieces of content.

And, despite the seismic social shifts which have taken place in the time period under consideration, advertisers are not keeping pace with this wider transformation.

“Over ten years: Zero. Nada. Nothing has changed,” Madeline Di Nonno, CEO of the Geena Davis Institute, said. (For more details, including further results from the study, read WARC’s report: Advertisers fail to break free of gender stereotypes.)

Building on this theme, Di Nonno asserted that the same biases and reductive norms which have long been associated with the advertising industry remain very much at play.

“Women are [still] only in 5% of ads by themselves; men are speaking seven times more; and men are shown on screen four times more. [Women are] not smart. We’re not funny. We don’t have jobs. We’re in the kitchen. And we’re not leaders,” she said.

Brent Choi, Chief Creative Officer/JWT New York & Canada, who co-presented the findings at the 2017 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity with Di Nonno, suggested some advertisers have made tangible progress in this area.

A few of the initiatives that have led the way, he argued, are Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty”, Ariel’s “Share the Load”, Always’ “Like a Girl” and State Street Global Advisors’ “Fearless Girl” statue in New York City.

The results of the analysis conducted by JWT and the Geena Davis Institute, however, indicate that these are outliers rather than harbingers of real change.

“When you think about it, we have these great moments … and they’re supposed to represent our industry moving forward – what we often call our ‘tentpole’ moments,” said Choi.“The problem is: there’s no tent. They are just poles. Which is really surprising, because we champion these moments and celebrate them … But there’s nothing else in between them; nothing that’s being lifted up by these great ads.

“So what this research really tells us is in the regular ads that we do for our regular clients every day, our industry is failing.”

Data sourced from WARC

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