Brands in Asia need to consider carefully how they represent gender in advertising as traditional stereotypes are increasingly problematic – and can be bad for business – says a regional strategy director.

“The majority of work we see in this region plays into quite conventional storytelling,” according to Ida Siow, executive strategy director of 72andSunny Singapore.

That’s something consumers, at least, seem to be aware of: the 2019 AdReaction study by WPP research company Kantar showed that almost two thirds (63%) of APAC consumers believe advertising reinforces stereotypes; but 83% of APAC marketers believe they’re creating advertising that avoids such stereotyping.

“The reality is that any conversation that talks about women talks about gender representation as a whole,” Siow observed, speaking at How To Speak Woman: The Asia Edition, a recent event held in Singapore.

“Any discussion that talks about opening up representation of women also opens up representations of masculinity. They are two sides of the same point,” she said. (For more, read WARC’s report: Navigating gender within brand purpose in Asia.)

While reductive portrayals of women are all too common, the opposite approach to men is not a guaranteed winner, as an analysis by BrandZ suggests that male-skewed brands underperform.

But there are signs of change in the region; women in ads are no longer limited to the three roles to which they have been traditionally assigned: that of the innocent, the lover and the caregiver.

“Women are claiming more masculine roles,” said Siow. For instance, Nike India’s Da Da Ding campaign in 2017 showcases indomitable women cast as heroes, rebels and explorers – “glorifying female strength in sports”.

And in China, she added, adidas has put a female-forward spin on the meaning of sports, avoiding the usual focus on competitiveness to stress sisterhood and solidarity.

“China is one of the few markets where adidas, specifically for women, is much more popular than Nike,” Siow pointed out.

Marketers need to establish their brand’s perspective on gender, ensure women’s voices are heard throughout the campaign process and that they are appropriately compensated.

Sourced from WARC