Men speak 7x more than women in adverts — that’s not okay
How do you take your TV? On an ‘old-fashioned’ tele box, or streamed through your laptop?
Unless you stick to the BBC or Netflix, chances are you’re still regularly bombarded with ads.
Now ads have come a long way since 50s Mad Men sexism, but in all these decades they simply haven’t come far enough.
Today men still speak around seven times more than women in adverts, new research unveiled at Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity shows.
What’s more, men get about four times as much screen time as women overall.
The groundbreaking research used automated technology to analyse 10 years of Cannes Lions Film, Film Craft winners and shortlists, and revealed a stark underrepresentation of women in advertising.
It’s time the industry shaped up.
The sad facts
Additionally, 18% of ads feature only male voices, while less than 3% of ads feature solely female voices.
The measurements of female representation in commercials (number of characters, time on screen, speaking time, etc.) have not improved in over a decade. There are twice as many male characters in ads than female characters.
Women also fall foul of ageism, objectification, and gender role stereotypes.
Most women in ads are in their 20s, yet men appear in their 20s, 30s, and 40s.
One-in-ten female characters are shown in sexually revealing clothing — six times the number of male characters.
Men are 62% more likely to be shown as smart (eg as a doctor or scientist), and are almost twice as likely to be seen as funny.
On the other hand women are 48% more likely to be shown in the kitchen.
One in three men are shown in an occupation compared to one in four women.
Powerful and dangerous
The main goal of adverts might be to sell a product, but their form sends out many more, too often dangerous, messages.
If women aren’t seen to talk on screen, the lesson taught is that women are not worth listening to.
If adverts selling products (that should be for everyone) only feature men, it says that these products, these industries, these roles, are not ones that are suitable for women.
The often subtle, overlooked, lessons sent out about age, or job or character, reinforce the worst views we hold as a society, and negatively impact women, men and youngsters alike.
These sexist ads support a warped world that belongs in the 50s — and frankly, not even then.
Tentpoles aren’t enough
If you find all this appalling, you are not alone. 85% of women agree that when it comes to representing them, the advertising world needs to catch up with the real world.
Recent years have of course seen some powerful bastions of change.
But feminism (AKA equality) needs to go way beyond ads targeted at women to bleed into adverts of every kind.
“What this research shows is that our industry has tentpole moments, amazing actions or campaigns when we all rally around women, but when it comes to creating our ‘regular’ ads for our ‘regular’ clients, we forget about them,” says Brent Choi, Chief Creative Officer at J. Walter Thompson New York.
You don’t have to be actively sexist to be a part of the problem, and it’s clearly easier than everyone thinks to passively get it wrong.
Change is good
Women today, men today, kids today — we’re lucky that things have changed.
But more change is needed.
“By changing the narrative, the images we use, the stories we tell about women, we can dramatically change the way the world values women and how women and girls see themselves,” says Madeline Di Nonno, CEO, Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.
“It’s not enough to portray more women. We need [to be] more progressive.”
In 2017 Mad Men attitudes are unacceptable. But so are subtle sexist oversights.
Tentpole moments are not enough.
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