Cannes report: Does our work have an impact on gender bias? | DMA

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Cannes report: Does our work have an impact on gender bias?


As marketers, we endeavour to make an impact and create great work. But how often does it occur to us that the work we create for brands is having an impact on gender bias?

And more importantly, that we have the power to help erase bias for future generations? With the Cannes Lions festival kicking off at the weekend, that’s what Deutsch Los Angeles president Kim Getty explored in her talk, raising a significant issue that still needs to be properly addressed.

Major brand campaigns now drive considerably more media impressions than Hollywood blockbusters - sometimes more than double, Kim said. So it’s clear as advertisers that we have a huge amount of power and are putting an enormous number of messages out there, on average people consume a whopping 350 adverts a day. Which is why it’s key they convey the right message about women and culture.

So what are brands saying? Well it turns out, not much at all. As a starting point, Kim reviewed last year’s seemingly infinite succession of Super Bowl ads to determine where the future of marketing communications is heading. Less than a third of the commercials featured women, with less than 17.5% having speaking roles. She then went on to look at four main sectors in the US across 2015, and found that women had main rolls in only 34% of the ads.

The bottom line is that there’s a huge gap that needs to closed. And indeed what makes that essential is that, within those categories, women were most likely to be the ones making the purchasing decisions. Which gives more of a reason to rethink how we target women.

That’s a broad issue. And some would say that we’re not here to solve problems other than what the client asks, right? But we can all do a better job at representing men and women and produce great creative work.

Pleasingly, there are some notable brands like UnderAmour, Nike and Coor Light’s leading the way. All have recently produced integrated campaigns centred around women. These campaigns embody a major shift in who they’re targeting and how when it comes to gender. These brands are playing a new game, creating award-winning work and generating great ROI.

So what next? As a result of women featured less in campaigns recently, it means that there are more untold stories out there, and so many opportunities to play with. As agencies, it’s our role to help create those opportunities for our clients and keep the brands progressive. We all have an obligation and opportunity to raise the appearance of woman.

And when you’re next brainstorming a campaign, you should ask yourself whether the story will still work if a woman was taking the lead role? If yes, as Kim would say, put her in.

It’s time to disrupt gender equality and take matters into our own hands. It equals more effective work and better stories. And is key to moving our culture forward.

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