CANNES: Marketers must push harder to advance gender equality both in their creative work and across the industry at large, according to Marc Pritchard, Global Brand Officer at Procter & Gamble.

Pritchard made this case at the 2017 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. And he suggested that while marketers have been discussing this problem in the recent past, substantive change is noticeably lacking.

"One can draw the conclusion that while it's clear that gender equality may have been talked about, the evidence indicates that the talk index is high, but the action and outcome index is low. That needs to change," Pritchard said. (For more details, read WARC's exclusive report: Procter & Gamble makes the case for changing gender portrayals in advertising.)

Not all marketers, Pritchard warned, are seemingly enthusiastic about getting into the weeds on this topic in order to drive a tangible shift in practice.

"When I proposed doing this panel, I was told by more than one person, 'Gender equality has already been talked about at Cannes. We're already addressing it. Why don't you talk about something new instead?'"

But numerous organizations – ranging from the Association of National Advertisers' (ANA) #SeeHer initiative to the Geena Davis Institute of Gender in Media – have found women are frequently portrayed negatively and under-represented in ads.

"The problem … is objectification, stereotyping, lack of positive role models for both women and men that lead to stereotyping gender bias, whether it's conscious or unconscious. And this industry has the opportunity to change that," said Pritchard.

Procter & Gamble has taken active steps in this area, including "#WeSeeEqual", a corporate branding campaign around International Women's Day 2017, and specific efforts in various countries from brands like Always, Secret, SK-II and Ariel.

"Actually, one of the things we've done is we've made dad sharing a load in household chores normal in our advertising," said Pritchard.

"We've got one on Tide, got one on Dawn, got one on Luvs, because when you make it normal, it starts to permeate in terms of how people think about it."

One other component of this agenda involves the fact women remain in the clear minority when it comes to filling key roles across the marketing sector, from Chief Marketing Officers on the client-side to Chief Creative Officers on the agency-side.

Some 45% of managers, and around a third of the board, at Procter & Gamble are female. Alongside re-balancing its internal numbers, P&G has joined cross-industry efforts for marketers, like the recently launched "Unstereotype Alliance".

"We need to meaningfully advance gender equality in the next 12 months. And the advertising and media industry can, and should, and will do that," said Pritchard.

Data sourced from WARC