BRUSSELS/TOKYO: The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) has launched a guide designed to help brands ensure their advertising reflects a more progressive portrayal of both sexes.

A Guide to Progressive Gender Portrayals in Advertising , which was unveiled at the WFA’s Global Marketer Week in Tokyo, makes a business case for unstereotyping ads – not least the fact that many purchase decisions are influenced or made by women.

The report covers both the issue of women’s portrayal in advertising as well as the stereotypes that can equally exist around the depiction of men in ads, who, it said, are often limited to a few characteristics based on a stereotype of tough, rugged men who were highly heterosexual, homophobic and often aggressive.

The move was welcomed by Keith Weed, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Unilever, who was instrumental in the development of the Unstereotype Alliance established by UN Women last year.

Unilever’s 2015 research showed that 40% of women around the world did not identify with the way women are portrayed in advertising; only 3% of women were portrayed in leadership positions; only 2% of women were portrayed as intelligent; and the same number were portrayed as having a sense of humour.

“That doesn’t reflect any women I know,” Weed said at Advertising Week New York in September 2017, where he reported research that showed “more progressive ads were 25% more effective”.

“So, it’s not just a moral case; there’s an economic case to unstereotyping advertising.”

Of the WFA initiative, Weed expressed the hope that this message would filter down not only to global brand owners but also to national advertiser associations.

“Our job won’t be done as long as ads still diminish or limit the role of women and men in society,” he said. “This is exactly the kind of collective, cross-sector collaboration that is needed and which I hope leads to sustained transformation across our industry.”

WFA CEO Stephan Loerke added that addressing gender stereotypes is just the first step. “Going forward it is our ambition to address other dimensions of diversity too,” he said.

“Gender stereotypes do not exist in a vacuum but are rather often entwined with others about race ethnicity, sexual orientation, physical ability, class and education.”

Sourced from WFA; additional content by WARC staff