The vast majority of marketers reckon they’re doing well when it comes to avoiding gender stereotyping, yet almost half of consumers say advertisers are still not getting it right.

The way both sexes are depicted rarely includes positive role models, consumers say, and there are few aspirational or authoritative portrayals. The effect is that campaigns are missing opportunities to have more impact, says Kantar’s new study AdReaction: Getting Gender Right.(Read more insights from Kantar’s Graham Page here: Progressive advertising can build successful brands - and change the world.)

Researchers carried out 30,000 ad tests, and surveyed 450 global marketers, as well as looked at attitudes to advertising among almost 40,000 consumers around the world to determine and understand how men and women respond to advertising.

According to the findings, more consumers think women are shown in ads in a way that is inappropriate (45%), rather than in a way that makes them think highly of the characters (40%). This gap is even wider for male portrayals (44% vs 35%).

The vast majority of both male marketers (88%), and females (76%) believe they do manage to depict both genders in positive role models; but researchers’ analysis shows otherwise, with women especially portrayed in out-moded ways.

Ad targeting also often misses the mark and is skewed to gender stereotypes that no longer apply.

For example, almost all (99%) of UK ads for laundry products are targeted at women, while 70% of those for toiletries and food products also focus on women. But, in most UK households, both genders say they are equally involved in making decisions in most categories. For groceries, 93% of women and 87% of men consider themselves a “main buyer”.

This simplistic targeting approach means lost opportunities to connect meaningfully with consumers, says the report. This has a negative impact not only on the success of ads and campaigns, but also on the perception of brands.

Researchers’ analysis showed gender portrayals remain strongly stereotyped, with 68% of all ads in the UK and Europe depicting women as “likeable” and/or “caring”. Just 4% include an “authoritative” female character, and only 7% depict an authoritative man. – indicating that ads fail to present strong role models for either gender. This is despite the fact that those ads featuring people in authoritative positions tend to be more effective, say the authors.

Hannah Walley, Kantar Millward Brown’s Joint Head of Media & Digital, said: “There’s some truly brilliant work going on, but 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,” she added.

Sourced from Kantar