Boosting the accurate portrayal of girls and women in ads and media is the main goal of the SeeHer initiative. From New York, WARC’s Stephen Whiteside reports on the project’s progress.

The SeeHer movement launched three years ago with the aim of delivering a 20% increase in the accurate portrayal of women and girls in advertising and media by 2020.

The initiative – co-developed by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), the trade body for client-side marketers, and the Female Quotient, an organization focused on achieving workplace equality – is stepping out toward that goal.

One source of evidence: 70 members of the ANA have already joined this program. And the signatories read like a blue-chip marketing hall of fame, as it incorporates telcos AT&T and Verizon, beauty expert L’Oréal, consumer packaged goods manufacturer Procter & Gamble, soft-drinks arch rivals Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, tech titan Microsoft, and retailer Walmart.

Alongside noting the undoubted “momentum” behind SeeHer, Christine Manna, the ANA’s president/chief operating officer, also cited the room for improvement that remains before all of the country’s top advertisers are on board.

“SeeHer, while a powerful force, right now, only has 70 client-side marketer members,” Manna told the #SeeHer 2019 Creative and Media Leadership Summit in New York. “The ANA has almost 1,800 members.”

To encourage greater participation, the ANA has offered its members a clear perk: each can take a “trial” – simply testing one ad – using the Gender Equality Measure (GEM) that is a core element of the SeeHer initiative. And the tool rates a given ad by asking consumers how much they agree (or disagree) with the following statements having viewed a TV commercial or show:

  • “I think highly of the way women are presented”;
  • “women are presented in a respectful manner”;
  • “it is inappropriate how women are featured”;
  • “women are presented in a manner where they can be seen as good role models for other women and young girls.”

Of the 60,000 ads GEM-tested so far, some 71% fairly represented women. And statistics released last year demonstrated that ads with favorable GEM scores:

  • drove purchase intent by 26% among all consumers, and by 45% for women;
  • boosted brand reputation by 11%;
  • worked better if they ran during shows that performed well in this area.

Another step in furthering the SeeHer agenda has been to introduce this system into 13 countries outside the US, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

“Why is this so important?” Manna inquired. “Because GEM is the gold industry standard for gender equality.”

Further good news for SeeHer was announced the same day as its conference in New York, as it named new marketing co-chairs for 2019/20. Fiona Carter, chief brand officer at AT&T, will be joined in this position by Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer at Procter & Gamble, the world’s biggest advertiser, and who controls a global budget of $7.1 billion.

“We could not have asked for better representatives. Their personal passion and commitment, aligned with the influence and impact that they can bring, will really drive much more success and reduce any obstacles and barriers,” Manna said.

Bob Liodice, the ANA’s CEO, argued this success was premised on strong ethical grounds, but also on tangible business results. “We not only have a fabulous idea, but it is grounded in the science of GEM scores; it is grounded in research and measurement; it is grounded in something that we believe in and that actually motivates us to take specific action to drive growth,” he said.

“Diving growth is the central mission of the ANA. It is the mission that we have for everybody, whether it’s marketers or agencies or publishers.”

Zeroing in on media companies, he asserted that many leading players in the industry have “shown what SeeHer is all about, and provided the accelerant and the fuel to be able to move this mission forward.”

Some examples:

  • handing out “SeeHer Awards” at the Critics’ Choice Awards each year since 2017;
  • airing SeeHer public-service announcements (PSAs) on CBS during Women’s History Month in 2018 and 2019;
  • running PSAs on certain Viacom networks;
  • SeeHer coverage during the 2018 Winter Olympics with NBCU;
  • forming a partnership with brands owned by Meredith.

Infusing a shared purpose throughout the marketing ecosystem, reported Liodice, will be crucial to making sure that SeeHer hits – and, ideally, surpasses – its target for 2020. “Bringing men and women together for a common mission and a common purpose in our industry, to be able to improve the growth rates across the board, are so fundamentally important,” he said.

“Now, our job is to spread the word to SeeHer. And we have a long way to go.”